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Google unveils first smartwatch, new phones, virtual cards and more

Google on Wednesday and Thursday held its annual developer conference where it revealed an expanded line of new products and services.

At its first in-person developer conference in 3 years, the tech giant announced 3 new smartphones and its first in-house smartwatch as well as plans to release a new tablet next year. Google also announced updates to several of its most popular tools including Maps, Google Translate and its core search product.

Here are some major announcements made:

New Pixel Watch and Pixel phones

In 2019, Fitbit was acquired by Google for $2.1 billion, a move many saw as a hint that Google was planning to go head-on with the likes of Apple and Samsung, which are already market leaders in smartwatches.

Two years later, Google has finally launched its first in-house built watch. The Pixel watch can be paired with Android devices only and is 4G-compatible, which means it can function on its own without being near a phone—but to do this it requires its own data plan.

The tech giant did not reveal a price for the wearable, but it said it would be a “premium product” when it launches in the 4th quarter of the year.

There are already many third-party Android watches which run on Google’s Wear operating system but so far Google has not had its own device until now.

As part of its annual tradition, Google announced its new mid-tier phone, the Pixel 6A. It also unveiled its next flagship phones: the Pixel 7 Pro with a triple rear camera system and the Pixel 7 with two rear cameras.

Source: Google

Surprisingly, Google announced that it’s getting back to releasing tablets after announcing that it will be focusing solely on building in 2019. The new Android tablet is set to be released in 2023.

Updated Search and Maps

Source: Google

It’s estimated that Google processes approximately 63,000 search queries every second, 5.6 billion searches per day and approximately 2 trillion global searches per year. Google search which started from only text queries has over the years added the option to use voice and picture queries options.

Now Google’s new multi-search feature—Multi-search Near Me—allows users to search using text and images at the same time. The tech giant pointed out that the use cases for this feature include searching for a meal or outfit, and finding local results from restaurants, retailers and more.

Source: Google

For a long time, Google Map has been the most popular Map app in the world, helping people around the world including Africans navigate through cities and rural areas. Now it’s getting a new feature that allows users to view their cities in a more immersive way.

The new feature, immersive view, fuses together Street View and aerial imagery in order to offer a digital model of the world and a new way to explore cities, key landmarks, restaurants, venues, and other places of interest.

Google maps’ new immersive view for cities comes off as a challenger to Apple’s 3D mode map view. In addition to this, Maps also now offers to find the most fuel-efficient route to get there with eco-friendly routing and offer users the ability to access Google Maps Live View in other third-party apps with the ARCore Geospatial API.

Virtual cards

Source: Google

Google is rolling out virtual credit cards to help protect users’ financial information while they’re shopping online. The feature generates a virtual card number that users can autofill instead of their actual card information on Android mobile devices or in Google’s Chrome browser, masking their real credit card number from the companies they’re shopping from. These virtual cards are typically used for one-time purchases, but users will also be able to use these cards for subscriptions.

Virtual cards will roll out this summer initially only for US users with Visa, Mastercard American Express and Capital One credit cards.

Translation and AR glasses

Source: Google

Google Translate has added support for 24 additional languages, bringing the total number of languages the product supports to 133.

Over 300 million people across Africa, Asia and South America speak these newly-added languages. 10 of the 24 new languages added to Google Translate are spoken in Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone, Mali, South Africa, Eritrea, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Namibia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Closely related to this announcement was Google unveiling Augmented Reality (AR) glasses that hint it plans to join companies like Snap and Meta who have AR glasses ambitions. Google showed off a pair of AR glasses that were capable of real-time translation during a conversation. The tech giant revealed no details on whether this will be a product people can buy.

Google’s first attempt at creating smart glasses was roughly a decade ago,  but it didn’t take off as expected due to its limited launch, high initial pricing and privacy concerns.

Ads and user privacy 

Source: Google

Google made a set of security and privacy announcements which will roll out later in the year.

A notable one is the My Ad Centre hub, a new control centre that will give users more control and visibility over how their ads are personalised across Google’s apps and sites, including Google Search, YouTube, and the Discover feed in Google app.

It’ll let users customise the types of ads they see by selecting from a range of topics they are interested in or opt to see fewer ads on a given topic. For example, if you want to see fewer ads about fashion, you can indicate.

The hub will also make it easier for users to request that their personal information such as phone numbers, email and home addresses be scrubbed from search results.

These announcements come after Google reported its 2022 Q1 revenue which was up 23% from the same period last year, reaching $68 billion, while its net profit dropped to $16.4 billion compared to last year’s $17.9 billion.

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