Google I/O 2019 News: Pixel 3a, Nest Hub Max, Android Q and More

Google's I/O 2019 keynote has officially kicked off, delivering huge announcements around the Pixel 3a, Android Q, the Nest Hub Max and tons more. Here are some quick highlights.

  • The $399 Pixel 3a is finally official, bringing Google's signature camera and AI smarts to a more affordable smartphone package. It's available today on most major carriers. See our Pixel 3a hands-on review.
  • Android Q is getting key new features, including a system-wide Dark Theme, better Smart Reply and Live Captions that can turn any piece of audio into text.
  • The Nest Hub Max is a $229 smart display with a 10-inch screen and a built in camera for video chatting and home monitoring.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai started the keynote by detailing Google's key mission for 2019: to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Based on the products we've seen, Google seems well on its way towards accomplishing that. Here are all the big announcements from Google's I/O 2019 keynote.

Pixel 3a: Lower Price, Same AI Smarts

After months of rumors, the Pixel 3a is a reality. Starting at $399, the  entry-level version of Google’s flagship smartphone retains the same basic design principles as the Pixel 3, with sleek white, black and a new “purple-ish” color schemes. And it has a headphone jack!

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

Thanks to Google’s software-based camera smarts, you can look forward to patented Pixel 3 features like Night Sight and portrait mode on the cheaper phone. Other signature Pixel perks like squeezing to summon Google Assistant and Call Screening for robo calls will return for the Pixel 3a. The new phone comes with an 18-watt charger, with Google says will deliver seven hours of battery life on a quick 15-minute charge.

The Pixel 3a is available starting today, and -- along with the entire Pixel family -- is finally available on most major carriers including T-Mobile and Sprint.

Check out the Pixel 3a specs, including how Google's new phones compare to the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. We also take a closer look at the differences between the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.

MORE: Google Pixel 3a Revealed: Release Date, Price and Specs

Android Q: Dark Theme, Live Caption and More

Android director Stephanie Cuthbertson revealed some key new Android Q features at I/O, including the long-awaited Dark Theme, a system-wide dark mode that’ll save your battery — and your eyes.

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

Also coming to Android Q is Live Caption, which is a fully on-device feature that can automatically turn audio to text, whether you’re watching a video or listening to a podcast. Google’s Smart Reply is also getting smarter on Android. For example, if someone texts you an address, Google will present a Maps button that automatically looks up directions for you.

Android is getting a Focus Mode, which disables select apps and activities so you can concentrate on work (or just get some rest). Google also promises more privacy and security features for Android Q, including faster security updates and encryption for low end devices, as well as better parental controls.

If you want to try these features yourself, the third Android Q beta is available now on 21 Android devices from a dozen phone makers.

Nest Hub Max: The Smart Display Evolved

The $229 Nest Hub Max is the evolution of the Google Home Hub smart display, this time adding a bigger 10-inch display and, more notably, a built-in camera.

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

The Nest Hub Max lets you quickly control connected thermostats or smart lights, and doubles as a standalone Nest Cam that lets you check on the living room while you’re away. It also supports Google Duo video calling with any Duo user on iOS or Android. Worried about privacy? You can turn off the camera and microphone with a quick switch.

If you prefer the cheaper, camera-free design of the Google Home Hub, which is now called the Nest Hub, you can snag that smart display for just $129.  

Google Assistant Gets Crazy Fast

Google says that Google Assistant is getting 10 times faster, and based on the demo we saw at I/O, we believe it. A Google representative asked Google a string of requests, such as opening the calculator, calculator, weather, John Legend’s Twitter and even getting a Lyft to their hotel, and Assistant responded to the commands instantaneously. Better yet, she only had to say "OK Google" once.

Google later showed more advanced features, such as Assistant's ability to compose entire emails based on natural voice requests. And if you ask Assistant for directions to "Mom's house," the AI will be smart enough to parse your address book and contacts to get you there. Google's next-generation Assistant is coming to new Pixel phones later this year.

New Privacy Tools

Google revealed some key new privacy features for its products, including new autodelete controls that let you choose exactly when your browsing data gets erased. One-tap access to your Google account is coming soon to services like Chrome, Search and Maps, and Incognito mode is also coming to Maps, YouTube and Chrome.

Google is also rolling out a new two-factor authentication option for Android users today, in a new update that will let you use your Android phone as a security key.

Improved Search: News, Podcasts and Camera

Google kicked off I/O by talking about some big improvements coming to Google Search. Google News' full coverage feature will now be baked directly into search, allowing you to see news coverage of a topic fom a variety of sources and angles at a glance. Podcasts are also being folded right into search, allowing you to access popular episodes without leaving Google.

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

Google is also building deeper camera and AR features into search, allowing you to instantly see short clips and 3D models of whatever you're searching for.

Google Lens Gets Smarter

Google's Lens camera tool is getting even smarter. For example, point it at the menu at a restaurant, and Lens will automatically tell you about the most popular dishes. And once you get your check, Lens can help you calculate tip and even split the bill. On a similar note, Google Go, the company's search app for entry level devices, can help users have text from signs or books read aloud to them.

New Accessibility Features: Communication for Everyone

Google’s latest accessibility tools include Live Caption, which is a completely on-device, one-click solution that turns on captions for all types of content including videos and podcasts while capturing nuances in language. Google also showed off Live Relay, which allows for seamless conversation between voice and text users. Additionally, Google is working on better speech and gesture recognition to help folks with speech disorders better communicate.

Improved Android Auto

Just ahead of its I/O 2019 keynote, Google unveiled a full overhaul of its Android Auto platform for automobiles. The Android Auto interface now provides a streamlined list of apps, as well as multitasking capabilities that let you, say, skip tracks on Spotify while using Waze for navigation. The interface also has a darker, cleaner look to match most modern vehicles. Look for these improvements to arrive by summer.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.