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November 13, 2016

From the Editor’s Desk: It’s Google hardware season

by John_A


This is Google’s biggest release year in recent memory, but that comes with extra responsibility.

Most companies in the Android world like to front-load their announcements for the first quarter (or so) of the year, but Google has consistently stuck to a Fall release schedule for all of its biggest consumer-facing products. This year was perhaps its biggest yet, dropping the Pixels, Chromecast Ultra, Google Home, Daydream View and Google Wifi all at once. And even though we’re five weeks removed from the launch event, we’re just now hitting the point where these products are actually shipping out in real numbers.

I’ve had my Pixel and Pixel XL for about a month now (primarily using the Pixel, fwiw), but just received my Chromecast Ultra and Google Home this week. I’m still waiting for my free-with-purchase Daydream View, and though I haven’t made up my mind on buying a Google Wifi I don’t have a choice right now.

Unfortunately for Google fans, the company is still pretty bad about shipping products in a timely and consistent fashion, while keeping them in stock for new buyers. Though Google has made it over the hurdle of dead websites and two-month waitlists back in the Nexus 4 days, its products are still consistently out of stock or unavailable in certain SKUs. Over a month removed from launch, the Pixel XL is still tough to come by, and models that are “in stock” have 3-4 week ship times. Depending on the day Google Home, Chromecast Ultra and Daydream View may actually be in stock, but with a few days to a week of lead time before shipping. How about Google Wifi? ::crickets::

The physical products are now the main attraction, and Google has to deliver (figuratively and literally).

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by same-day (and two day at the most) delivery from Amazon, and forget how bad ordering from the Google Store used to be, but it’s still extremely frustrating to see a company the size of Google be incapable of keeping its brand new products in stock when enthusiasm is the highest. We’re definitely starting to get into the swing of the holiday shopping season, and Google has to have these products ready to ship.

The stock and shipping issues are really indicative of Google’s overall hardware shortcomings. It has shown serious ambition with this “Made by Google” initiative, but as our own Russell Holly astutely summarized this week, Google is a bit short on execution. The Pixels are perhaps the most complete thought of the bunch, with very few missing pieces. Chromecast Ultra is a new Chromecast — that wasn’t too difficult. Google Home is a great idea but clearly needs a lot of software tuning and server-side improvements to make it actually great (or, just above average). Daydream View is clearly a great product ready to take over from Cardboard, but is launching with effectively no VR content. Again, Google Wifi? ::more crickets::

When Google was just releasing products here and there, we cut it slack on the execution part of things because we always knew the true product was having you use the internet and its services as much as possible. Now with “Made by Google” the physical products are the main attraction, not a secondary piece of things — and it has to actually start delivering. No more half-baked ideas, no more “it’ll get better in the future” caveats — that won’t fly anymore.

A few closing thoughts on the week that was:

  • I know the HTC Bolt isn’t the next amazing drool-worthy phone, but you have to give HTC credit for doing a lot of neat stuff with what would otherwise be a boring carrier-branded handset.
  • Shame it has to be saddled with a Snapdragon 810 processor and being a Sprint exclusive — it’s putting a cloud over an otherwise solid phone.
  • Sprint is still going to use the Bolt as a centerpiece of its marketing the next few months, though, and that’s going to sell a considerable number of phones.
  • I’m excited to give the Samsung Gear S3 a try again after first seeing it over two months ago. I want to use the new software especially, but I’m not particularly enthused by how huge both models are (and I have larger-than-average wrists).
  • I always enjoy watching people guess which phone I took my Instagram photos with. Many times they’re right, sometimes they’re way off.

That’s it for this week. This is supposedly the “slow” part of the year in the Android world, but we’re certainly staying busy. See everyone next week.

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