The Pixel Pill’s dock ought to have been a Nest speaker

I’m not stunned; I’m simply upset.

As anticipated, Google launched the Pixel Pill at its Google I/O developer convention yesterday. It’s an 11-inch Android pill with a “charging speaker dock,” and when it’s on the dock, it appears to be like and capabilities like a Nest Hub Max, Google’s top-of-the-line sensible show. Google stored saying the Pixel Pill was “like” a sensible show, whereas insisting that it isn’t one.

The factor is, when the pill is docked in Hub mode, it actually looks as if a sensible show. The pill acts like a digital photograph body. You possibly can speak to Google Assistant. You should use it as a sensible residence controller. You possibly can Chromecast audio and video to it. These are all issues the Nest Hub does. The dock, which comes with the pill, makes it clear that the pill is meant to stay out within the open, not shoved in a drawer or wherever folks hold tablets once they’re not utilizing them.

The Residence Panel on the Pixel Pill.

Now, there are quite a lot of the reason why an Android pill is a greater sensible residence controller than the underpowered, uncared for Nest Hubs. I imply, the phrases “underpowered” and “uncared for” are massive ones. The Pixel Pill is a little bit of a do-over, with a contemporary interface, far more highly effective {hardware}, and a a lot bigger app ecosystem. It has the potential to be an ideal sensible show and sensible residence controller — however there’s one main omission in attaining that potential.

I simply can’t work out why the dock isn’t a Nest speaker.

At launch — phrases I’ll come again to — it’s only a dock. It fees the Pixel Pill, and it has audio system that the pill can use when it’s docked. And it allows that Hub mode I used to be speaking about. If you take the pill off the dock, it’s a pill. However the dock is simply litter. You possibly can’t solid audio to it, you possibly can’t ask it questions, and you may’t even use it to cost your different gadgets. It simply takes up area.

Earlier than Google I/O, I had this complete idea in my head that it would be a Nest speaker. The choice simply didn’t make sense. It’s no less than as massive as a Nest speaker. It has audio system in it. It’s all the time plugged in, and it’s designed to be out within the open. It prices $129.99 by itself, which is greater than a Nest Audio or a Nest Hub.

If it have been a Nest speaker, it could nonetheless be helpful when somebody walks off with the pill. If it had a Matter controller and a Thread border router in it, as a number of Nest Hubs do, it may work in tandem with the Pixel Pill to be a one-stop sensible residence answer, even when the pill is elsewhere. As an alternative, you continue to want a separate gadget (or two) to regulate your sensible residence, along with your $500 pill and its cumbersome dock. I’m not the one one to note the missed potential right here.

It makes quite a lot of sense to make use of an Android pill as a household sensible residence controller, nevertheless it makes much less sense for that sensible residence controller to be unavailable as a result of anyone took the display screen off and is taking part in Minecraft within the subsequent room. A Nest speaker within the dock would repair the “the place did the pill go” drawback, and the Pixel Pill fixes the most important drawback with the Nest Hub sensible shows, which is that they’re essentially voice-first sensible audio system with an ungainly touchscreen interface grafted on, operating on {hardware} that struggles to maintain up.

That is only a dock. It doesn’t have a microphone or a privateness swap.

I believe the dock was speculated to do extra. And both there was a change of course or among the {hardware} is there however dormant as a result of Google simply didn’t get it achieved in time for I/O. Contemplate the next.

In early 2022 — earlier than the Pixel Pill was introduced eventually 12 months’s I/O — there was a rumor that Google was engaged on a Nest Hub with a removable show. Late final 12 months, Google appeared to be ramping up growth on Fuchsia OS upfront of a brand new Nest speaker launch in 2023. And it has spent the final two years porting its current Nest Hub audio system to Fuchsia. The second-gen Nest Hub obtained the OS final week. All to no apparent outcome; all of them nonetheless run the identical dilapidated entrance finish as earlier than, and no new Nest merchandise have been introduced. That’s quite a lot of effort to go to for nothing.

For some time, I used to be half-convinced that not solely was the dock a Nest speaker but additionally that the Residence Panel interface of the Pixel Pill was truly operating on the dock itself and simply overlaid on Android when the pill was docked. And that, as a result of that Residence Panel interface didn’t appear like the Nest Hub interface, Google was about to replace the Nest Hub interfaces when the Pixel Pill launched. Simply goes to point out you shouldn’t imagine one thing is true simply since you need it to be true or since you’re fed up along with your Nest Hub Max and don’t wish to spend $500.

If this looks like I’m greedy at straws, to start with: in all probability! The charging dock doesn’t have a microphone or a privateness swap, so it’s nearly actually not a Nest speaker. However second, take a look at what Anish Kattukaran, the director of product on Google Residence, instructed my colleague Jennifer Pattison Tuohy: “at launch, the brand new Pixel Pill is not going to be a Matter controller or Thread border router.”

“At launch” is a bizarre method to put it if what you imply is “by no means.” So there’s a slim hope that the sensible residence management capabilities no less than would possibly nonetheless be within the dock.

Replace: Google spokesperson Mia Nicholson instructed The Verge by way of e-mail that neither the pill nor the dock has a Thread radio. Oh effectively.

Simply goes to point out you shouldn’t imagine one thing is true simply since you need it to be true

After all, Google did lay off a bit of the Fuchsia dev crew in January — shoutout to 9to5Google for staying on high of Fuchsia information, by the way in which — after which reorged the Assistant crew in March, so possibly plans modified. Or possibly they tried the Nest speaker factor and determined it was too complicated, or they couldn’t get the working techniques to play properly. Or they couldn’t get the group to play properly. Possibly they’re nonetheless engaged on it! Possibly they’ll have a unique dock coming later that does have a Nest speaker in it.

Or possibly the Nest Hub is an evolutionary lifeless finish, and the speaker dock is only a massive, costly charging stand for an Android pill. That Android pill will probably be a very good sensible residence controller when it’s docked, thanks principally to the brand new Google Residence app and the truth that it’s designed to take a seat out within the open. However the sensible residence wants an ideal controller. The Pixel Pill has all the appropriate parts. It’s too unhealthy the dock is only a dock.

Pictures by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Up to date Might 11, 2023 at 5:48PM EST: Added new info from Google confirming the shortage of Thread radio within the Pixel Pill or charging speaker dock in addition to the worth of the dock when offered individually.

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