Terrence: Hello, nerds, and welcome to a special, mostly Google edition of the Engadget podcast. I am your habitually overdressed host, Terrence O'Brien. Joining me this week, to my right, editor in charge of promoting his other, but excellent podcast on this one, Devindra Hardawar.
Devindra: Hello, and it goes both ways, Terrence.
Terrence: I appreciate that, plugging us over there, and we'll give you a chance to plug that one later again.
Terrence: To my left, a bagel queen, Dana Wollman.
Dana: Good morning. That is a nice handkerchief you're wearing.
Terrence: Thank you. It's called a pocket square when you wear it like this.
Dana: No, it's a handkerchief.
Terrence: If you blow your nose in it, it's a handkerchief, Dana. If you-
Dana: It's a floral handkerchief.
Terrence: A floral handkerchief?
Terrence: I don't even know if people can see this on the camera, and if you're listening, you can't see it, so it doesn't really matter.
Dana: He's wearing a handkerchief.
Terrence: I am, okay.
Dana: Just take my word for it.
Terrence: How's everybody doing this morning?
Devindra: Lots of reviews this week.
Dana: Yeah, poor guy.
Terrence: Yeah, you had a bunch, pretty much, back to back, and we're going to talk about one of those-
Dana: I'm the monster who assigned this, so I feel a little bad about that.
Terrence: Yeah, this is all your fault.
Devindra: Yes. It's okay.
Terrence: We're going to talk about one of those reviews later, which is why this is a mostly Google edition. We do need to take a break in the middle to talk PlayStation VR, but the big news this week was Google. Tuesday was all Google, all day. They're pretty much was no other news, except for a little snafu with Yahoo, which maybe we'll talk about next week. Let's keep it focused on Google for now.
They had their big event on Tuesday, they announced some phones, they announced some weird virtual assistant things, they announced a whole bunch of stuff, but I want to kick off this episode, as we do every week, with Flame Wars. You guys know how this works. You get 20 seconds to make your opening statement. I'll allow for a brief rebuttal, and then, I will decide who wins and who loses based on the strength of their argument. As always, I will make the quick addendum that this is purely an intellectual exercise. This is not representative, necessarily, of people's beliefs, but nonetheless, it's really fun to have you guys yell at each other and I enjoy hitting a little buzzer and making a noise.
Devindra: It's just like being in the comments section.
Devindra: It's great.
Terrence: Hence the name. Let's start off with the Google Assistant, which is Google's new AI thing that they're baking in the phone.
Devindra: Helper thing? Yeah.
Terrence: Yeah. Basically, it's fancy updated Google Now, and I guess the question is, is this really a whole new product, and did they even need to change the name? Dana, let's start with you.
Dana: It's, I wouldn't say it's a wholly new product. Google Now already offered services that were personalized to people. It just has a more human name, except Google Assistant really isn't a human name. It just has a human voice to go with it.
Terrence: That is under time.
Terrence: Devindra, your rebuttal?
Devindra: It actually makes a lot of sense to kill it. Now was great, but it was a very confusing brand. Just saying Google Now sounds like you're trying to start a sentence rather than talking about a product. It didn't have much brand recognition, so if Google wants to really compete against Siri, it has to start fresh.
Terrence: All right. I have a question for you, Dana, which is, you say that it has this human voice, but didn't Now have that human voice, too? Is there anything else they're doing that's making it, giving it more personality, or is it just a new name?
Dana: It seems mostly like a new name, and I mean, it's artificial intelligence.
Devindra: It's doing a lot more.
Dana: The intelligence is getting more, for lack of a better word, intelligent, but again, it does feel like an evolution of an existing product, and I wouldn't say that the humanness of it is one of the things, that that's not how it's evolving. It hasn't gotten more human, it's just getting smarter.
Devindra: Well, it's how Google engineers think of humanity, right? Like, what is a human phrase for a virtual assistant? Uh, Assistant. Yeah. We don't need names, we just need signifiers, I guess, yeah?
Terrence: Yeah, it's not the most creative name, at all.
Dana: I've said this on previous podcasts, but editing stories that says, that includes the phrase "the Google Assistant" is hard for me, because it looks so awkward on paper, but it's technically the correct name.
Terrence: I hear what you're saying, Devindra, about writing and saying Google Now is terrible.
Devindra: Also, nobody knows what that is, is the thing, other than geeks.
Terrence: I mean, if you're an Android user, there's a good chance you know.
Devindra: I don't even know, in the Android interface, you don't see the name Google Now, right?
Terrence: That's true.
Devindra: It's just a thing, as part of the Google experience. Yeah.
Terrence: In a way, retiring Google Now did, at least people like us, a favor, in that we don't have to write Google Now, especially if you're talking about them adding a feature to Google Now, and you have to say, "Google Now now does this," which is literally the worst sentence ever written by man.
Devindra: I've had to kill that sentence many, many times, yeah.
Terrence: Is Google Assistant any better of a name?
Devindra: I mean, are we just arguing the name here, or are we arguing functionality, because I think functionality-wise, it is the natural evolution, right? It is bringing all of Now's features, like pulling in data from your email, but also going a step forward, looking into your schedule, and trying to think about what you need. Yeah.
Terrence: All right. I'm going to go with you on this one, Davindra, although I don't know that Assistant is any better of a name.
Dana: No, it's not.
Devindra: It's Google, it's not a good name.
Terrence: It's not going to have any better brand recognition, probably, either.
Devindra: Well, now you're going to be talking to it a lot more, right? Ideally, in a Google world, right?
Dana: I would've respected an Assistant named Sergei or Larry, you know?
Terrence: That would've been pretty good.
Devindra: That would've been great.
Dana: There aren't even any male named assistants, so why not Larry?
Terrence: Is it too late to do that? Can Google just go and change that now?
Devindra: They can do whatever they want, guys.
Dana: Okay, Larry.
Terrence: Yeah, I, are you going to be able to program it to respond to whatever you want?
Devindra: I mean, I assume we'll have a lot of different ways to-
Terrence: If you can program the vocal cues, I'm 100% making it respond to, "Okay, Larry."
Dana: Okay, Terry.
Terrence: Moving on to the next topic, Google Nexus is dead. We now have the Pixel instead. This is another one where-
Devindra: I thought you were going to keep rhyming.
Terrence: No, I'm done.
Devindra: Come on. Come on.
Terrence: I didn't even realize I was rhyming. I did that purely on accident.
Terrence: It's because I'm a poet at heart. It's just built into me. This is another brand that Google has had for a while now, and it killed it off, and I'm not entirely sure whether or not it needed to die, necessarily.
Dana: Now, before we get into this, are we talking about the name, or the whole Nexus program, the effort to collaborate with outside hardware makers?
Terrence: For the purposes of this exercise, I'm going to say purely the brand name.
Terrence: Whether or not they stopped collaborating with the likes of Motorola or LG, is there a purpose to killing off the Nexus brand and replacing it with Pixel? We started with you last time, Dana. Let's start with Devindra this time.
Devindra: Okay. I actually think it does make a lot of sense to change things up, just because, or, wait, wait. No. Let's reboot. Let's reboot, because I'm looking at our positions here.
Terrence: Yes, there is a master document with people's assigned positions on this.
Devindra: I'm like, what's going on here? Trying to, did need some time, okay.
Terrence: We caught up? We know where we are?
Devindra: I think so. I'm just trying to figure out how to phrase this.
Dana: My master plan was, I had Devindra work on 2 reviews while I got access to the document first and got to call dibbs.
Terrence: You got to claim the easier ones.
Devindra: I think Dana did.
Terrence: All right, Devindra. Your 20 seconds starts now.
Devindra: Yeah, I don't think the brand needed to die, just because the Nexus program was fundamentally different from the Pixel program. Nexus was about Google helping other companies try to build good phones. Pixel is about Google's premium brands, and we already have a couple Pixel devices, so nice to have that divide there.
Terrence: As always, you come in under your 20 seconds, making it so that I can't hit my buzzer and have fun. Dana, your rebuttal.
Dana: If we're just talking about what the Pixel phone, as we now know it, should have been called, I think Pixel makes sense because it was made by Google itself, and there's an emphasis on premium-ness, whether it's the design itself or the camera quality, and so far, the Pixel brand has represented just that. Not value for the money the way Nexus does, but premium-ness. Quality.
Terrence: Thank you for letting me use my buzzer, although you paused when you saw me reach for it.
Devindra: Quote, unquote "quality," but okay.
Terrence: Well, I mean, I guess, here's the thing, is, does Pixel represent quality?
Devindra: It represents expensive shit. That's really all.
Terrence: I don't think it represents expensive shit, but it represents-
Devindra: In the non pejorative way.
Dana: I mean, he's baiting me, because he knows I really like the Chromebook Pixel. Both of them.
Terrence: I mean, so do I. I love it.
Terrence: I love the Chromebook Pixel a lot. I mean, I don't necessarily love the Pixel C.
Devindra: I love Chromebooks, because they're cheap and easy to replace. A $1,200 Chromebook doesn't make sense to me, but yeah.
Dana: The latest Pixel Chromebook was better hardware than most PC makers have made recently.
Dana: I just would prefer a more versatile OS.
Dana: Other than that, the hardware.
Devindra: You'd like to run actual applications, Dana.
Dana: They got the hardware down, for sure.
Terrence: I'd argue, from a hardware perspective, it's better than even some Mac laptops.
Terrence: I mean, it's an incredibly well crafted machine.
Devindra: It's still kind of heavy and clunky, too. I reviewed the Pixel C, which is their spin on a convertible, and that thing is just like of like a trash fire. At least, hardware-wise, there's some good ideas, but the keyboard isn't quite good. Pixel has always been, for Google, this really expensive, aspirational product, like they can make something as good as Apple.
Dana: No corners cut.
Dana: We have, to be clear, we've given strong reviews to many Nexus branded phones, but the subtext, or the text of a lot of those reviews was, "It's a good value for the money. It's a good phone for the price, or what it is." We never really said about these Nexus phones that they were the pinnacle of Android hardware, you know?
Terrence: Well, I mean, I don't know that that's true.
Devindra: Yeah. The Nexus 6P and the 5X, even our reviews, I believe, were all about, "Oh, this is premium Android, even though it's cheaper."
Terrence: Yeah, I mean, the 5X-
Dana: The 5X was about the value.
Dana: The 6P, we liked it.
Terrence: I'm pretty sure we previously called, at least a handful of Nexus phones, the best Android phone on the market at the time.
Devindra: Maybe not in terms of hardware, but in terms of, I guess, overall experience, which goes to show the crappy nature of Android right now.
Dana: The experience is key.
Terrence: That's the fundamental question for me, though, is, you're saying that Pixel represents high end quality whatever, and whether or not the products under the Pixel line live up to that is debatable, but also besides the point, because at the end of the day, most people don't know what Pixel is.
Terrence: If you're talking about a nerd thing, even more so, I'd say, than Google Now, Pixel is a think that only nerds know about really; whereas Nexus is a relatively well known brand at this point. Maybe not popular in the same realm of the Galaxy S7 or something, but I have several friends who are not super tech savvy, and went out and bought Nexuses, not because I told them to, but because they hated the Samsung software experience, and they wanted that pure Android experience. They didn't want to buy an iPhone, so they went out and bought that.
There are people who know that's what you're getting if you buy a Nexus, and I don't know if those people are going to know, that's what you're getting when you buy a Pixel.
Devindra: Sure, sure. I mean, it's all up to the marketing, but the reason I'm arguing that it makes sense to keep both alive is, the Nexus was all about Google working with partners. The Pixel is about doing its own thing, even though it's still built by HTC, so, it's just very different. They're going more iPhone here, which is weird.
Terrence: They are. I'm going to give this one to Devindra again, Dana. I'm sorry.
Dana: Well, your face is disgusting.
Dana: Not even a floral handkerchief can save it.
Devindra: That's the trend of the podcast, by the way. It's just, your face.
Terrence: It's just to hammer me for my terrible, terrible face. I guess without Cherlynn here, somebody needed to do it, right?
Devindra: We need a sound board for that. Your face, your face.
Terrence: Yes. We will, we got to get a sound board. It's really something that's lacking. Our last question for Flame Wars is a pretty easy one. Dana, are you going to buy a Google Home?
Dana: That's not the question we have here.
Terrence: Is it creepy or is it useful?
Dana: It's useful, and here's the thing, is Google Home does not buy itself and install itself in your home. If you have chosen to put it in your home, that means you already are comfortable with Google owning, having, not owning but being in possession of that much data about yourself.
Devindra: You could say owning. It's probably true.
Devindra: I think it is fundamentally creepy. Yeah, it is your choice, but it's also all about Google collecting all your data across this Home device, on your phone, probably what you're doing in the Chrome browser, too. It is, this whole unification of your personal profile, is kind of disturbing.
Terrence: I have a question for you, Dana, about this, because I think there's one interesting little detail that kind of got buried in the announcement of the Google Home, which is that there is a specific mic/mute button on the device, which kind of suggests that it's constantly listening. That you'd need to go and tell it specifically to stop is kind of a little weird and creepy.
Devindra: I think the Echo has that, too.
Terrence: Does it? I literally know nothing about the Echo.
Dana: Listening for a specific command, like, "Okay, Google," right?
Terrence: Well, presumably, but it's got to be listening and analyzing your speech and all of that stuff.
Dana: Well, good thing I don't really say okay Google in my household conversation. Okay Larry might be a different story, but, yeah.
Devindra: Yeah. I mean, it'll probably be less of a problem for Google, so yeah, I'm looking up the Echo thing here, and there is a microphone off button. The Echo, it's a problem, because if somebody just says Alexa, like in a TV show or something, it'll come on, which happens to me a lot. I don't know, like the show The 100, their character's named Alexa, and it makes things crazy.
Terrence: I literally don't know what that is.
Devindra: It's a teen show.
Terrence: A teen show?
Devindra: Teen show.
Dana: This brings back memories of people's Xbox Ones accidentally getting turned on.
Devindra: Yep, yep.
Devindra: Same deal.
Terrence: Yeah. I don't know.
Dana: Here's the thing, so in general, I think the creepiness of cloud services is a little hard to avoid, and Google search is so ubiquitous, Gmail is so ubiquitous, that at some point, Google will probably own your data. In general, I think there is a creepiness about Google, but again, no one is, you can live without this device, even if you can't live without Google search or Gmail. By buying this, you really are buying into the trade offs of, between usefulness and privacy. You are a party to that.
Devindra: Although it seems like, I mean I could see legitimate reasons to want a device like this, and you have the choice not to give up so much of your information, or turn off always listening. Even beyond the mute button, like just completely disable that feature. I know a lot of people who will want things like this. Maybe you just want a little speaker in your home that you'll occasionally ask the weather. It's weird how fundamental user rights are being tied to devices rather than just giving you the control to let you decide how a device works.
Terrence: Yeah. I think I'm going to give this one to you, Dana. I think, at the end of the day, it is super creepy, but that doesn't outweigh its usefulness, and Google is creepy without Google Home anyway.
Devindra: It's all creepy.
Terrence: It's all just creepy.
Terrence: This is why, in a weird way, it's actually probably a good thing for humanity, though, that the internet is such a creepy permanent record of everything you've done.
Devindra: Is it? There's a reason our-
Terrence: I feel like it probably pressures people to be better humans in general.
Devindra: I would hope so. I mean, I almost feel like there's a reason our brains don't record memories exactly.
Devindra: At a fundamental level, at an evolutionary level, it's good to just forget bad things in your life. The internet will never let that happen.
Terrence: You have to be much more careful and hopefully a better person, although, apparently, not everybody learns from that.
Devindra: Yes. As we know, reality doesn't matter.
Terrence: Yeah. Reality is clearly based on whatever your political perspective is, not on facts. Fact's clearly debatable.
Terrence: We're getting off topic. Politics was last episode. Let's keep this to gadgets this week.
Terrence: Let's move on to open-source and the PSVR. You reviewed this, this week Davindra. You spent, I don't know, how much time with it did you have?
Davindra: At least half a week, but ...
Davindra: A lot of time in VR, and a lot of time writing and thinking about the state of VR, which is fun.
Terrence: Let's start with the big picture question, and this is a little bit reductive, and we'll dig into it later. Should people go buy the PSVR? Just straight yes or no.
Davindra: That's pretty much the fundamental conclusion in my review. It is a good device, and it's a better consumer device than either the Rift or the Vive, because it's more comfortable. Sony knows how to make consumer hardware, so instead of having a strap that you're basically tying around your head with Velcro, which is ridiculous and kind of looks insane, the Playstation VR has this headband that's just cushioned on both sides, it has weights in the back, and it's balanced so well, so that even though it's heavier than the Rift or the Vive, it actually feels lighter just because the weight is distributed perfectly on your head. There's no weight resting on your nose or anything, which is the big problem with the Vive for me. That thing is so forward heavy, I can't wear it for too long.
Terrence: That's interesting, because that's one of my issues with the VR headsets I've had, is that they are so heavy ...
Terrence: Especially. I haven't used the Vive, but the Rift I found uncomfortable after about, I don't know, 15 minutes probably, it started to get a little bit much.
Davindra: You tested the older Rift. The final version is actually pretty light. It's not that much heavier than the Gear VR.
Terrence: I mean to hear that the PSVR is actually heavier, but feels lighter because of the balance of it is super interesting, and ...
Terrence: Kind of crazy, and tells me that people probably should have put a little bit more engineering and design time into these other VR headsets.
Davindra: It's totally new territory. The way I'm actually thinking about it, this feels like the early web, right? The Rift and the Vive feel like, I don't know, Prodigy and ...
Davindra: Give me Pipeline, a really, really early ISP, and the PSVR is like ...
Terrence: I'm not even familiar with that one.
Davindra: Oh yeah, that was one of my first ones. The PSVR is like AOL, it is okay, it's not great, but it's a better experience, and normal people can consume it and use it in their living rooms. The other plus it has, is better games. They have a lot of developers building titles, they have 30 launch titles, they think going to be 50 by the end of the year. Really good stuff too, like Arkham VR from Rocksteady, they're the ones who made the Batman games recently. There's Rez Infinite, some other puzzle games that I really like. It's just overall a better experience. The thing about the Rift and the Vive, I just haven't felt the need to go back and do much in them after my reviews. I've played some games, but there really hasn't been that much. They've been mostly tech demos. The PSVR, even though the quality's lower and the field of view is lower, it actually, it gives you more reasons to play.
Terrence: Dana, you edited this I assume as you edit all of our reviews I believe.
Terrence: I don't think there's any that ... I think I might have edited one over the last couple of months.
Dana: That would mean I'm on vacation, or ...
Terrence: Yeah, and you did go on vacation fairly recently.
Dana: Yeah, or, yeah.
Terrence: Yeah. Was there anything that stood out to you in going through the review, and going through all of the product shots and stuff that made you, who are not a gamer, at least peak your interest a little bit in VR?
Dana: I keep coming back to Sony's success in having this much content at launch. I think you said, 30 games to start with a total of 50 promised by the end of the year. Often times when there's a new kind of hardware and there needs to be content to go with it, it's a game of chicken and the egg. Not just with VR, but we saw this with 4k, 3D TVs, there's often a chicken and the egg, but somehow Sony seems to have won that game.
Davindra: I mean, they've been doing this for a while, and ...
Davindra: Some of these games can be translated to normal PS4 games, which is nice. I guess, without the Rift and the Vive, this couldn't have happened either. These games will actually make, I don't know, the overall VR market a lot better, because some of these games will eventually hit to PC, so you'll play them on the other headsets too. This is what the VR market needs, it needs a cheaper consumer entry thing. It is cheaper than either the competitors, but yeah ...
Dana: It's interesting, I know that you're recommendation is to not buy it right now.
Dana: At least wait for price drops. IDC, the research firm, is predicting that among tethered VR headsets, specifically like the Vive and the Rift, that the Playstation VR is going to be the top seller.
Dana: Which is kind of crazy, because it hasn't even come out yet.
Davindra: It makes that ...
Dana: It doesn't go on sale until next week.
Davindra: Price wise, think about it ...
Davindra: The PSVR starts ...
Dana: Oh, it definitely makes sense, yeah.
Davindra: Starts at 400 dollars. The PS4 is 300 dollars. That's a lot of money, you also need to pack in the camera and the 2 move controllers, so technically the PSVR bundle, most people would be buying is the 500 dollar one.
Terrence: Because who owns the ...
Davindra: Exactly, nobody.
Terrence: Playstation camera and the move controllers?
Davindra: It's amazing to me that this old hardware could actually be translated to VR. They must have warehouses of this stuff.
Dana: Well, and to your point in your review, that this hard ... Some of those peripherals, like the camera and the move controllers were accused ... People accused Sony of being derivative, and ...
Dana: Sort of copying other console makers ideas, which maybe was true at the time, but it did work out, and the timing was perfect.
Davindra: Weird. The move controllers are from 2009, and [crosstalk 00:05:38] it's the same controller being used now, so that's insane.
Terrence: Well I mean, the basic premise of that motion control though hasn't really changed much really, right?
Terrence: I mean, we're still talking about light sensing, and gyroscopes, and accelerometers ...
Davindra: Depth sensing, yeah.
Terrence: The basic technology hasn't changed.
Dana: Now it's ... Sony isn't being accused of copying the Wii U, and it's not being accused of copying the Kinect, we're praising it for having had the foresight, quote unquote, to have produced these ...
Davindra: Dumb luck ...
Dana: Ingredients that would come ...
Davindra: Is a wonderful thing sometimes.
Dana: Come in handy later, yeah.
Terrence: Do you think it was dumb luck, or do you think it was they were like, "We need to do a VR thing," and they went, "You know what? We have all of these unsold move controllers and ... "
Terrence: "Cameras, we should figure out a way to use them ... "
Davindra: I mean ...
Terrence: "In conjunction so that we make ... "
Terrence: "Some of our money back."
Davindra: The camera came out in 2013 alongside the PS4, and that's a stereoscopic depth sensing camera like the Kinect. I never saw many developers support it, so I wonder if they had the idea for PSVR at that point?
Terrence: I don't know ...
Terrence: What games support that, the camera. Literally the only one I know of off the top of my head is Alien: Isolation ...
Terrence: Because I started playing it the other day, and it had an option for head tracking, and I went, "What is head tracking?"
Davindra: That's ...
Terrence: Then I had to ...
Davindra: I think you can lean, yeah.
Terrence: Yeah. Then I was like, "Oh, if you use the camera you can peak around corners."
Davindra: Which the Kinect did first, so.
Terrence: I was like, "That's weird and seems kind of not useful, but sure."
Davindra: Yeah, that was the idea with the Kinect too, it was rarely used.
Terrence: I mean, what's the big standout for you though? Is it the weight, is it the games, is it the motion controllers? Because I know that's something ...
Davindra: It's not really the motion controls. I mean, the motion controls are nice, and it's surprising that they have them out before Oculus even does. Oculus has showed off their motion controllers, they're actually on their second or third generation motion controllers, but they haven't released them to the public yet. We may be hearing about that later today ...
Terrence: I was just going to say ...
Davindra: At the Oculus Kinect conference, yeah.
Terrence: By the time this episode ...
Terrence: Goes up, that may have changed.
Davindra: It's still amazing that Sony got it out first. It's a combination of all those things. At the same time, that's a lot of money, wait a year and the price will be half, and you'll have better experiences to deal with.
Dana: If IDC is right, a lot of people aren't going to be taking your advice.
Davindra: Oh no, I mean the bundles ...
Davindra: Have sold out from what we know. Amazon's bundles for both the 400 and 500 have sold out for a long time, so people are buying it, people with a lot of disposable income.
Terrence: We don't know how many they made.
Terrence: They could have sold out, and they could have had 20 in stock for all we know.
Davindra: Exactly. If ...
Terrence: I'm sure it's not 20, but ...
Davindra: If you're a hardcore gamer right now, you're probably better off investing in the PS4 Pro, which makes games look better, will support 4k TVs, and next year you can buy the PSVR, and those VR experiences will look better on the Pro too.
Terrence: Yeah, and let's be honest, there's probably going to be a PS4 Pro and PSVR bundle, where you'll be ...
Davindra: Oh yeah.
Terrence: Able to get them both in one shot.
Terrence: I mean, because they built the PS Pro probably looking at the VR, and ...
Davindra: Although, from what we're reading from suppliers, they may not be able to build enough PS4 Pro's to survive the holiday, so that may not happen.
Dana: That would be a real black eye for Sony.
Terrence: Would it? Or would it actually help them from a PR perspective and be like, "There's so much demand ... "
Davindra: "They're selling out."
Terrence: "We're selling out," yeah. It looks good, it's the sort of thing ...
Davindra: I think gamers, they wait. They will wait and they'll sit on their pre-orders for this.
Dana: It looks good, but they need to do well this quarter.
Davindra: Yeah, they do.
Terrence: That's very true. All right, one last question, which is what is the best game you played on PSVR?
Davindra: Best game? Maybe, I mean, I did like being Batman, just because ...
Dana: I love the idea of that.
Davindra: It makes you Batman.
Dana: Who thinks of that? That the idea for the game being you just look in the mirror and say, "I'm Batman?"
Davindra: Well, first of all 5 year old me thinks of that Dana. It is that sort of, "Oh my God," in the early part of the game you're like, oh, this is your batarang, it sits at your waist. There's like a medical scanner on your left side. There's your grappling hook on your right side. You look down and there's the bat belt, like the utility belt, and you can just pick it up with the VR controllers. Eventually, you don't even need to look to access these things. There's a point where you're looking at a mirror, and the Batman model is just modeled as to where your head and arms are, so you can make Batman just do stupid things. I'm surprised at how well that stuff has worked.
Terrence: You did literally just stare into the mirror and ...
Davindra: Yeah, yeah.
Terrence: Go, "I'm Batman."
Davindra: "I'm Batman."
Davindra: Yeah. The game needs work. I'm surprised there's no combat in the game. It is all Batman being a detective and doing the dirty work of being a detective, and not kicking butt.
Terrence: He's going around ...
Terrence: Questioning witnesses?
Davindra: Sort of, scanning crime scenes ...
Terrence: Collecting samples?
Davindra: Exactly. Collecting crime scenes, it's the dorky Batman work.
Terrence: I mean, it's kind of fun Batman, just going to say ...
Davindra: It's kind of fun Batman.
Terrence: That's why we like Batman.
Terrence: It's not just because he kicks ass.
Davindra: Rocksteady brought in their voice actors, so Mark Hamill, back as Joker. I think ...
Davindra: This may be his last Joker, but yeah, and it's good. Yeah, the voice acting is very good.
Terrence: To Google for group chat.
Dana: To Google.
Terrence: Again, this is Google's week. Let's talk about the big announcement at Google, which was the Pixel and the Pixel XL. Although, I do want to throw it out there, which is kind of weird, I don't know that they specifically mentioned the Pixel XL-
Devindra: I don't think so.
Terrence: In the original announcement-
Devindra: It's just all Pixel.
Terrence: We have a Pixel phone and then just didn't bother to talk about-
Dana: Maybe they just knew that both phones were heavily leaked and we already knew anyway.
Devindra: They should have just left the stage like "You know what's up."
Dana: Just said, "Fuck it, here's a phone."
Devindra: What's interesting is that they're exactly the same. Hardware-wise, except for the screen and battery, that's it. The camera, everything ... There's no compromise here.
Terrence: Which is pretty good. Let's take one quick step back and for those who may have missed it, and if you did, what were you doing this week, guys?
Terrence: There's this little site. You may have heard of it. It's called Engadget. You should read it once in a while. Good times. Google announced two new phones: the Pixel and the Pixel XL. They are built by HTC, but Google's very clear in making the point that these are not designed by HTC. This is not the same sort of relationship that they had with manufacturers in the Nexus program, like Motorola and LG, where those devices like ... Huawei, the 6P, carried a lot of the design DNA from Huawei and the Nexus 6 carried a lot of the design DNA from the Moto X. It was basically a giant Moto X. This is designed by Google. HTC's name does not show up on the device at all.
Devindra: In a nerdy way, it makes me think about the future of HTC, because they're struggling as a company-
Terrence: Yes they are.
Devindra: This is the first time I've seen them just being outsourced a little to do the handle and the manufacturing. At some point, something like this could help HTC stay alive. That's interesting. Also, these phones seem like Google designed them while staring really hard at photos of the iPhone in HTC 10s. Like, "Those corners look nice and this general shape" ... It looks very familiar.
Terrence: It does look very familiar. Actually why don't we start and we'll talk about that first, and we'll move on to some other things that are probably bigger-picture questions. I did see a lot of flack on Twitter and even some of our own editors here were saying "It looks a lot like an iPhone," and that is undeniably true.
Devindra: Except for that blue. That blue is fantastic. I kind of love it.
Terrence: Do you?
Devindra: I love bold colors.
Terrence: I love bold colors, so here's my issue with the blue, before we get back to the iPhone lookalike thing. The blue is gorgeous. I loved the color, but it's just the back plate. If the whole-
Devindra: You can see a little bit.
Terrence: If the whole phone was blue, I'd be 100% into it.
Dana: You'd buy a Smurf blue phone?
Devindra: That's just crazy talk. You got to have some color-
Terrence: The white face and then the blue back, just the way it comes together wasn't doing it for me. I wasn't a fan.
Dana: I just don't want a Smurf phone.
Terrence: I like all of my things to be colored like-
Dana: I don't want a rose gold or jet black phone either, though.
Terrence: No, I'm not a fan of the rose gold. I'm with you on that, but I kind of like most of my things to look like they've been coated in ground-up fictional creatures.
Devindra: Okay, sure.
Dana: Maybe we can agree on that red Daydream VR headset.
Terrence: That was hot.
Dana: We can agree on that.
Terrence: That thing was amazing.
Devindra: Yes, sure.
Terrence: Again, go visit Engadget and look at it because you're listening to a podcast, you can't see it. Just trust us. The Daydream View headset in crimson is hot. I want a couch made out of that.
Devindra: Actually it matches your outfit right now too.
Terrence: It does. Actually it would match my tie and pocket square.
Terrence: You just got to keep calling it a handkerchief. Let's come back to the design of the Pixel and the Pixel XL real quick. I hear what people are saying about this, but at the end of the day, I'm kind of confused about what people expect from the design of a phone at this point. That is, for the most part, a criticism that you can hurl at most phones that we like the design of.
Devindra: Even the iPhone 6. I think the iPhone 6 looks kind of boring and vanilla. Honestly, I think HTC got there first with the original HTC 1. A really smooth case, very clean lines-
Dana: A tennis strap.
Devindra: Yeah, and then they just kind of honed that design down and Apple clearly lifted that for the iPhone 6. They look so similar. We've kind of reached this perfection point. I don't know what else we can do.
Terrence: There are outliers. There's things like the Galaxy S7 Edge which is unique looking, but I'd argue pointless.
Devindra: The Moto Z, I think, took things to new-
Dana: It's different for the sake of being different.
Terrence: Yeah, that is purely for the sake of being different as far as I can tell.
Devindra: In terms of reliable design that's generally crowd-pleasing, this is it. We've gotten to boring rectangles, so I can't blame them too much for this.
Terrence: The bigger question though is ultimately "What does Google have to gain from basically taking over building the phones completely?"
Devindra: They won't have their partners have their phones catching fire. It's funny because I remember when the Nexus program started too, and Google was talking about like "Oh yeah, we just to guide these partners to creating some nice aspirational Android hardware." Now it seems Google's seeing the point of controlling everything. Now, Google has services it wants to control too. It has assistant, it has a whole bunch of other things at once to tie people into. It's just funny Google didn't do this when they had Motorola. They own Motorola and all we got was the Moto X, which sort of was customized but it didn't seem as refined as these. These seem like the logical evolution of the Moto X in a way, too.
Dana: This sort of calls to mind Microsoft and the Surface Book a little bit. At this point, Google doesn't really need to sell people on Android. It's not a new operation system, it's not an underdog-
Terrence: It is the most widely-used smartphone OS in the world.
Dana: Right, so what Google really needs is not to proliferate the OS even further, but convince people that Android phones aren't-
Devindra: Trash fires?
Dana: Yeah, they're not all explosive. There's a lot of cheap Android phones out there-
Devindra: Not all Android phones!
Dana: They're not all crappy, that there are some really high-end phones. You could say that HTC and Samsung already proved that HTCs phones haven't been selling well, so that doesn't do much for Google's reputation. Really what Google needs to do now is not proliferate the OS but just convince people that there can be product like this that is every bit as premium and carefully-thought-out as the iPhone.
Terrence: This is mostly about them kind of curating the experience to the point where they can convince the person who just walks into a T-Mobile and buys whatever the new phone is-
Devindra: Except only at Verizon- [crosstalk 00:07:29]
Dana: It reminds me of [inaudible 00:07:29] Microsoft does where sometimes Microsoft will go out of it's way to promote devices from other companies that it thinks are great. I think part of the motivation behind the Surface line, including the Surface Book, was to sort of take matters into its own hands and prevent the name of the OS from getting sullied by inferior hardware somewhere else.
Devindra: Even though they had their hardware issues.
Dana: Yes they did.
Devindra: That could have backfired. The Surface originally not so great, but I think it helped to push the proliferation of convertible laptops that we're seeing so much now.
Terrence: Is this a turning point for Google then? Is this them now shifting their focus from building the software that's going to power everything that people use to now them wanting to be a serious player in the consumer hardware market?
Devindra: I don't know how serious they're going to be, because they're not actually building it either. I think that's a good a thing, because the hardware Google has built ... Although I don't know some of the other things were from other people.
Terrence: Let's be clear. They're not building it because HTC is manufacturing it, but almost all the companies that make phones, they don't build their phones. Apple doesn't build their phones. While I don't know this for sure, I'm pretty confident that Google doesn't build most of the hardware they make. I'm pretty sure-
Devindra: That makes sense.
Terrence: They don't manufacture the Chromecast.
Devindra: I'm worried about Google-designed hardware I guess, just because the Chromecast has been the only thing that has been truly successful. We've seen so much that's just failed or has been announced and never even released, like the stupid soccer ball thing.
Terrence: The Nexus Q?
Devindra: Yeah, that was a thing.
Terrence: That was a thing, sort of.
Devindra: Everything we're seeing around this looks good. The hardware looks good. I'm surprised the camera has already been well-reviewed. Even though that looks like a really small sensor compared to what we're seeing on the iPhone-
Terrence: It's what, 12.3 megapixels?
Devindra: It's 12.3 megapixels and the lens is just tiny. It's so tiny, but apparently it takes great pictures according to some third party.
Terrence: What's the megapixel count on the iPhone 7? That's what we're up to, right?
Terrence: Do you know?
Dana: A little higher than 12.
Terrence: A little higher than 12, thank you.
Dana: I mean at that point I don't really consider 12 megapixels a low resolution camera.
Terrence: The thing is that a long time ago, we entered the realm of diminishing returns in terms of megapixels. Now it's more about pixel and sensor size than anything else.
Devindra: iPhones have 12 megapixels, too. Sensor size matters more.
Dana: I think we're all excited to test out the camera, especially because Google's not been known for it's photography until now.
Terrence: That has always been a weak point in the Nexus devices for the most part.
Devindra: Something Samsung actually got right. I think for a while the S7 were better cameras than what the iPhones had until the iPhone 7. I've been so bored with phones lately I didn't want to upgrade to the iPhone7, because I like my headphone jack and I like how Google included a little dig in their ad for this. It has a headphone jack.
Terrence: Pretty great. I love the pause and cough in there-
Devindra: I'll probably end up getting one of these, although I don't want to move to Verizon for it, so we'll see.
Terrence: I'm already on Verizon, so yeah I'm going to buy it.
Devindra: You need a new phone.
Terrence: I do need a new phone. I've been carrying around a Moto X review unit for the last six months or so.
Devindra: Oh man.
Terrence: I already pre-ordered one. I considered momentarily canceling my pre-order, mostly because I don't know what our corporate overlords are doing to the Pixel. This is one of the outstanding questions that hasn't been addressed, which is "Has Google managed to negotiate an Apple-like deal with Verizon, where when updates are available, they go to the Pixel phones, end of story, no fighting? Or are they stuck with another Galaxy Nexus type situation where Verizon is going to hold up the updates for their phone for months on end for no good reason?"
Dana: I say this every podcast when Verizon comes up, but no one tells us anything. We don't know.
Terrence: We have reached out to the company we work for for answers regarding this and have received nothing in return.
Devindra: I wonder-
Terrence: We could literally walk upstairs to the people in charge of this probably.
Devindra: That's true, or the ugly Verizon building in New York. I don't know about Google's negotiation skills. I'm surprised this thing is only available on one carrier-
Terrence: I am too.
Devindra: That was key to the iPhone's success, and if they really want this thing to succeed they shouldn't have done that.
Dana: We were surprised about that with the Moto Z as well.
Devindra: Carrier exclusives don't succeed. That's why the Samsung line has taken off, too.
Terrence: Yeah, they are selling an unlocked version of it that will work with every American carrier.
Devindra: For the nerds.
Terrence: The fact that, at least for the time being, you can only buy it through Verizon if you're going to go through your carrier is sort of an odd thing, and probably a little bit problematic. I doubt that exclusive is going to last for very long.
Devindra: I hope not.
Terrence: Otherwise you're going to have to buy the unlocked version.
Devindra: I think I will just to have it.
Terrence: This is why I was considering cancelling my pre-order, is I purchased it through Verizon and now I'm wondering if that was a poor choice and I should go back and buy the unlocked model. It's hard-
Dana: I think we should do a special addition podcast one time just about ... I don't do this. All of your impulsive gadget purchases. You guys, Velazco, has a bunch under his belt-
Dana: Not me so much.
Devindra: Velazco, he's a strange creature.
Terrence: I honestly don't make that many impulsive gadget purchases, and if I do, they tend to be me dipping my toes in the water on something and purchasing used stuff on eBay. I went and bought a new MIDI keyboard with MPC pads built in, because I've never had an MPC-
Devindra: That sounds geeky.
Terrence: I wanted a drum machine and so I went and dropped like 100 bucks on eBay as opposed to going out and buying a brand new one.
Devindra: Are you going to make us a new theme song, Terrence?
Terrence: Maybe I will.
Devindra: All right, I won't-
Terrence: I spent the last two weeks trying to figure out how the damn thing works.
Devindra: That sounds like a good segment though. I think when I do it it's more like "Oh this is a good deal. This is something I've been looking at for like a year." Then I bought the Dell Ultrawide 34 inch PC monitor a couple weeks ago. My life has never been the same. It's so good.
Terrence: I think we are getting off topic. For me, impulse gadget purchases need to be in that sub-hundred dollar range. I've impulse purchased ... We said this last week. Multiple Chromecasts and ended up with more Chromecasts than I had TVs at some point.
Devindra: Oh man. We'll see if the Pixel phones will be impulse purchases. They almost are for me. I'm tempted.
Terrence: It wasn't an impulse because I was specifically waiting for it. I'm waiting for whatever the new Nexus is, and then it became that it's not a Nexus, it's a Pixel. I'm ready for an upgrade. It's time for a new phone.
Devindra: Only downside is no waterproofing, no water resistance. That's a shame, especially right now. I kind of want to buy one for me and my wife. My wife left her Nexus 5X out in the rain one day.
Dana: She doesn't take good care of her phones?
Devindra: I'm not going to badmouth my ... She normally does, it was just left out on our-
Dana: Just in case she's listening. I get it.
Devindra: Some sort of water resistance would have been nice.
Terrence: I'm kind of surprised by that, honestly. They didn't make any mention during the presentation, which probably should have thrown up alarms. Then I did see confirmation on Twitter later that it is not water resistant. That is very surprising and potentially problematic.
Devindra: I also didn't know if HTC has brought waterproofing to its premium phones yet. That's the other thing. Maybe they just can't do that well.
Terrence: I don't know about that. If I'm honest-
Devindra: I'm trying to look it up and I'm not seeing much. Nothing much of a reference to that.
Terrence: We're almost out of time and we kind of got distracted from the bigger points at some point. Repeating myself now. Dana, I did kind of want to get your take on Google's history with hardware and whether or not you're kind of concerned about the Pixel in general as a product.
Dana: What do you mean?
Terrence: I mean we were discussing it before and then we kind of got distracted, which is that Google does have this very checkered past with hardware that it makes itself or designs itself ... The Chromecast is the obvious exception to where they've succeeded and really-
Devindra: It's cheap.
Terrence: Knocked the ball out of the park, but that's because it's a cheap piece of plastic that costs 35 dollars and you hang it from the back of your TV and you don't worry about it.
Devindra: It relies on what Google does best, which is systems and their streaming service. That's what Google-
Terrence: As opposed to something like the Pixel C, and as much as we love them, arguably the Pixel books, which are these kind of failures for the most part in terms of consumer products. Let's not even go near the Nexus Q, which never even launched-
Dana: I think at that end of the spectrum, Google's biggest failures have been its most experimental products. This is not an experimental product. It's a phone, it's a mobile device. Google has been involved in some form in making mobile devices for a long time. Obviously often with the help of partners, but it released its first tablets years ago. It's no stranger to mobile devices that run Android. I don't think Google was going into this quite as blind, or blind at all. I think Google is playing to win here. Win if not in sales, because honestly I don't think this will be a big source of revenue anyway just given how much money Google makes from search and all its other stuff ... Win in terms of getting good reviews and getting the respect it wants and being able to say "Hey, this is a really great showcase for Android." I think that's really what it's about.
Devindra: Let's not forget Nest either. I feel like that whole thing, Dropcam, has been a disaster under Google. I don't know how much that's related to their other hardware initiatives, but none of this gives me hope.
Terrence: I don't want to get off on too much of a tangent here, but what do you think the changes are that at some point Nest and Dropcam and all that stuff is just going to get folded into the same division that's doing the Google Home stuff? Honestly it even kind of seems like what Google did with Motorola, was buy it, take the pieces that they really wanted. They weren't really interested in the core phone business. They wanted that experimental design, the people who were going to be the next generation of phones, not the current one. Pulled them out and then sent Motorola packing. When here, Lenovo, you take this shell of a company that nobody wants. What's the chances that they're going to end up doing that basically with Nest and Dropcam? Even if they don't sell off the names, that they just kind of go "Well you're not brands anymore. Now you're just part of Google whatever."
Devindra: That would make sense. Nest has been a disaster. They've taken so long to release followup cameras. They only just now announced an outdoor camera. I don't know what's going on with their smoke alarm. All this stuff will have to connect together in some way. I don't think Nest, as a separate division, will last for too long.
Terrence: This is potentially the beginning of Google as a serious hardware maker. We'll see. At least I have already ordered my Pixel XL.
Devindra: It's funny you brought up tablets though, Dana, because I see a lot of people complaining like "Where are the next Nexus tablets or good Google tablet?" I think they're trying to push the Pixel C as one. It's a powerful tablet but it's heavy and it's not great as a standalone tablet.
Dana: The keyboard is a disaster.
Terrence: I mean if I'm honest, I kind of think tablets, as a category of device, are on the decline. Google just doesn't see much need to invest in that in a serious way.
Devindra: Samsung is, I think, one of the few Android makers still releasing new tablets, and their things are the best right now.
Terrence: I think LG does too still, but I could be wrong about that. Ever since the Nexus 7, as far as I'm concerned, there hasn't been a solid Google tablet or an Android tablet. I'm seeing less and less people with tablets in general. The iPad sales have started to at least sort of plateau if not drop over the last year or so. They're probably just like "It's not worth investing our time in that sort of thing."
Devindra: It's kind of heartening. I've always liked computers or notebooks or even convertibles versus standalone laptops trying to replace personal computers.
Terrence: Devindra, any last thoughts before we sign off?
Devindra: I want to look at that blue phone. I want to lick it. It's so blue.
Dana: I'm sorry I insulted your handkerchief.
Terrence: You're not sorry you insulted my face.
Dana: Oh, I guess.
Devindra: You should just reach over and blow your nose in it and then it becomes a handkerchief. There you go.
Terrence: Where can the fine people find you on the internet, Dana?
Dana: I am on Twitter @danawollman. My full name with no space. Be nice.
Terrence: Devindra, your turn to plug your other show.
Devindra: I'm on Twitter @devindra and I review movies and TV shows at slashfilm.com.
Terrence: I am at @terrenceobrien. Lots of Es, no As. As I've warned previously, if you're coming to me expecting Tweets about technology, you'll be sorely disappointed. It's mostly about me crying over the Mets and politics.
Devindra: How about those Mets, Terrence?
Terrence: I'm going to unleash a torrent of rage on our San Francisco coworkers later just to vent. It's nothing personal guys. I don't actually hate you. I'm just a little bitter is all.
Devindra: I don't know sports, but I did see the Mets news this morning. I can finally say "How about those Mets?"
Terrence: You knew that I was going to be in a bad mood because of that.
As always everybody, thank you for tuning in. Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. Subscribe in iTunes or whatever your podcast app of choice is. Rate us on there and hit us up on Twitter @engadget or send us emails at email@example.com. Send us your questions, comments, complaints. We want to make this show good for you, and if you don't send us feedback we can't cater it to what you want.
Before we go, I want to leave you with the comment of the week, which comes from [inaudible 00:22:19]. "Yes yes yes yes yes. Thank you thank you. Finally, O-M-G. It's about time. Yes yes yes yes yes. Thank you. Finally. Oh my God. It's about time. Yes yes yes yes yes. Thank you thank you. Finally. O-M-G. It's about time."