Apple Watch Competition to Grow as Google Plans Its Own Wearables Following Fitbit Acquisition

Google today announced it plans to release its own "Made by Google" wearables following its $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness tracker maker Fitbit. The deal is expected to close in 2020 pending regulatory approvals.
Over the years, Google has made progress with partners in this space with Wear OS and Google Fit, but we see an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market. Fitbit has been a true pioneer in the industry and has created engaging products, experiences and a vibrant community of users. By working closely with Fitbit's team of experts, and bringing together the best AI, software and hardware, we can help spur innovation in wearables and build products to benefit even more people around the world.
Fitbit confirmed that it will continue to support both Android and iOS, and that Fitbit health data will not be used for Google ads.

Tags: Google, Fitbit

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Google Reportedly in Talks to Acquire Apple Watch Competitor Fitbit

Google is in talks to acquire popular fitness tracker maker Fitbit, according to Reuters, which could help the company better compete with the Apple Watch along with its existing Wear OS smart watch platform.


The report claims there is no certainty that the negotiations between Google parent company Alphabet and Fitbit will lead to any deal, and the exact price that Google has offered for Fitbit is unknown at this time.

Google does not currently sell any own-brand fitness trackers or smart watches, but its Wear OS platform runs on smart watches sold by several third-party brands, such as LG, Huawei, and Fossil.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 6
Tags: Google, Fitbit
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

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Hands-On With Google’s MacBook Air-Style Pixelbook Go

Google earlier this month unveiled the Pixelbook Go, a new premium Chromebook that's similar to a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro, but Chrome OS.

In our latest video, we went hands-on with the Pixelbook Go to see how it measures up to Apple's ‌MacBook Air‌ (the two have similar price points) and whether or not it can serve as a ‌MacBook Air‌ replacement.

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Design wise, the Pixelbook Go looks rather similar to a MacBook featuring a lightweight chassis, a large trackpad, a 13-inch display with slim side bezels and a thicker top/bottom bezel, a keyboard with speaker grilles at each side, and a similar hinge mechanism.

A G logo at the top and a wavy, bumpy textured feel at the bottom sets it apart from the ‌MacBook Air‌. Like Apple's MacBooks, the Pixelbook Go offers a simple, clean design.


Pricing on the Pixelbook Go starts at $649 for an Core M3 processor and 64GB of storage, but we tested the upgraded Core i5 model with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage, which is priced at $849. That's the model most similar to the entry-level ‌MacBook Air‌, which comes with a 1.6GHz Core i5 processor, 128GB of storage, and 8GB RAM for $1,100.

The Pixelbook Go is cheaper than the ‌MacBook Air‌, but there are some areas where it is definitely lacking in comparison. When it comes to the display, for example, it's adequate, but the HD quality just doesn't measure up to the ‌MacBook Air‌'s Retina display. There is an upgraded version of the Pixelbook Go with a 4K display, but that machine is priced at $1,400.

One area where the Pixelbook Go shines is its keyboard. The keyboard doesn't look too different from a MacBook keyboard, but it's super quiet thanks to Google's Hush Keys feature, satisfying to type on, and has the perfect amount of key travel. There are also custom keys, including a key for activating Google Assistant. There are speakers located to each side of the keyboard, and the sound quality is solid. The speakers are a touch louder than the ‌MacBook Air‌'s speakers at maximum volume, but the ‌MacBook Air‌ wins out when it comes to sound quality.


There's a MacBook Air-style trackpad on the Pixelbook Go, but MacBook competitors often have a hard time replicating the feel of Apple's trackpad, and the Pixelbook Go is no exception. There's a physical trackpad button that feels clunky and outdated compared to Apple's Haptic Trackpad.

The Pixelbook Go offers up to 12 hours of battery life, which is the same claim that Apple makes about the ‌MacBook Air‌. In practice, we see around five to eight hours of battery life from the ‌MacBook Air‌ depending on usage, and the Pixelbook Go has been hitting around eight hours.

There are two USB-C ports on Pixelbook Go (one on each side) along with a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is the same general port setup the ‌MacBook Air‌ offers, though the ‌MacBook Air‌ supports Thunderbolt 3.

What really sets the Pixelbook Go apart from the ‌MacBook Air‌ is the operating system. While the ‌MacBook Air‌ runs the full version of macOS, the Pixelbook Go uses Chrome OS. Chrome OS is a Linux-based OS that supports Chrome apps and some Android titles, but it is in general more limited in scope than macOS.


Chrome OS is designed for everyday tasks like browsing the web, creating documents, taking notes, and sending emails rather than more specialized tasks like photo and video editing. Technically, most people who buy something like an entry-level ‌MacBook Air‌ are probably primarily using it for the same purposes, but you do have a bit more flexibility with macOS.

The option to download Android apps has made Chrome OS more useful over the course of the last several years, and there are, for example, apps for photo and video editing, though we wouldn't recommend them for regular full-time usage.

All in all, for most people, the upgrade to the ‌MacBook Air‌ over the Pixelbook Go may be worth the price differential given the better screen quality and the option to use macOS, though it's still much cheaper than the ‌MacBook Air‌ when it comes to the entry-level $649 option. The Pixelbook Go is one of Google's nicest Chromebooks in terms of design, hardware, and the complete Google experience, so it is likely the better choice for those who prefer a Google ecosystem.

What do you think of the Pixelbook Go? Would you use it over a ‌MacBook Air‌? Let us know in the comments.

Tags: Google, Chrome

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Google’s Search Algorithm is Now Better at Parsing Natural Speech Queries

Google today announced a change to its core Search algorithm that it says can better understand conversational search queries. Through improvements in natural language analysis, the company says that it has improved its ability to analyze queries that reflect how people speak in real life and recognize the relevant context.


Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like "for" and "to" matter a lot to the meaning, Search should be able to understand the context of the words in a query, allowing users to search in a way that feels more natural.

The company says the improvements are down to a system it introduced last year called BERT, or Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, which allows Google to analyze the context of a sentence a lot better and return more pertinent information.

In a blog post announcing the change, Google offers the following example to show off BERT's capabilities – a search for "2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa."

The word "to" and its relationship to the other words in the query are particularly important to understanding the meaning. It's about a Brazilian traveling to the U.S., and not the other way around. Previously, our algorithms wouldn't understand the importance of this connection, and we returned results about U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil. With BERT, Search is able to grasp this nuance and know that the very common word "to" actually matters a lot here, and we can provide a much more relevant result for this query.
Google reckons BERT will help Search better understand one in 10 searches in the U.S. in English, and it plans to bring the capability to more languages and locales over time.

As far web searches go, the changes usher in the "biggest leap forward in the past five years, and one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search," said Pandu Nayak, a Google vice president.

Safari is the default browser in Apple's Safari web browser. Apart from its Google.com website, Google Search is also available on iOS through the company's namesake app. [Direct Link]

Tag: Google

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Camera Comparison: Google Pixel 4XL vs. iPhone 11 Pro Max

Google last week announced its newest flagship smartphones, the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4XL, both of which are meant to compete with the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, Apple's newest devices launched in September.

In our latest YouTube video, we went hands-on with a Pixel 4XL and an iPhone 11 Pro Max to compare the cameras in the two devices to see how they measure up against one another.

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Both the Pixel 4XL and the ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌ have impressive cameras, and when it comes to standard shots taken with the rear-facing image, there's little difference in quality. Both smartphones are producing some great images, though the ‌iPhone 11 Pro Max‌ tends to create images with a cooler tone while the Pixel 4XL has a warmer overall tone.


Each smartphone does well with highlights and shadows, but the Pixel 4XL has a feature for adjusting these settings in real time while they need to be post processed on the iPhone. The iPhone does have one edge - a third ultra wide-angle camera lens. The Pixel 4XL is limited to two cameras, a standard wide-angle and a telephoto lens, so it can't quite match the capabilities of the ‌iPhone 11 Pro Max‌.


Google pioneered Night Sight (the equivalent of the iPhone's Night Mode) last year, and the feature continues to be impressive this year. Night Side and ‌Night Mode‌ are quite similar, and it's tough to pick a clear winner for low-light photos. The ‌iPhone 11 Pro Max‌ tends to produce photos that look a bit more natural, while the Pixel 4XL offers up sharper, more vibrant night time images that sometimes have blown out highlights.


When comparing Portrait Mode, the Pixel 4XL seems to produce sharper images and it has superior edge detection in most cases. It's imperfect and there are times that the iPhone wins out, but in most of our test images, the Pixel 4XL does a better job with Portrait Mode photos.


For the front-facing camera, the Pixel 4XL has a new wide-angle lens that can capture more around you, plus it produces some super sharp photos, especially in Portrait Mode. There's an option for a wider-angle field of view with the iPhone's camera too, but the images from the Pixel 4XL appear to be just a bit better even though they have a warmer tone.


The Pixel 4XL has a Night Sight option for the front-facing camera, which gives it an edge over the front-facing camera of the ‌iPhone 11 Pro Max‌ as it can take better selfies in low lighting conditions.

When it comes to video, the ‌iPhone 11 Pro Max‌ wins. Google appears to have focused more on photo quality than video quality, and both the front and rear-facing cameras are a bit lacking. Both phones can record 4K video at 60 frames per second and both have stabilization capabilities, but the ‌iPhone 11 Pro‌ has a preferable color profile and look compared to the Pixel 4XL.


All in all, both of these smartphones have high-quality cameras capable of producing some impressive images, which makes it difficult to choose a clear winner. Preference is generally going to come down to platform choice and small aesthetic differences between features like color profile.

Which smartphone's camera do you prefer? ‌iPhone 11 Pro Max‌ or Pixel 4XL? Let us know in the comments.


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Google Working on Software Update to Bring Eye Detection to Pixel 4’s Face Unlock

Google has said it will release a software update "in the coming months" that will let Pixel 4 owners require their eyes to be open for the phone's Face Unlock security feature to work.

Image via NextRift

The acknowledgement follows last week's discovery that the Pixel 4's facial authentication system isn't currently capable of distinguishing a face with eyes open versus eyes closed. The finding immediately sparked concerns that the phone could be opened by anyone simply by waving it in front of its sleeping / dead owner.

Google's Pixel 4 Face Unlock feature replaces the fingerprint sensor and works similarly to Apple's Face ID, which is found on iPhones and iPads that have a TrueDepth camera system. However, Face ID requires by default that the user's eyes are open, although users can turn off this Attention Aware option in settings.

Previously, Google said that Face Unlock "is designed to get better over time with future software updates," but stopped short of committing to deliver the "Require eyes to be open" toggle that was spotted in pre-launch leaks of the Pixel 4's features. Now though, it wants customers to know that the setting is on its way. The company gave the following statement (via The Verge):
We've been working on an option for users to require their eyes to be open to unlock the phone, which will be delivered in a software update in the coming months. In the meantime, if any Pixel 4 users are concerned that someone may take their phone and try to unlock it while their eyes are closed, they can activate a security feature that requires a pin, pattern or password for the next unlock.
Despite the security implications of Face Unlock working even if your eyes are closed, Google still claims the feature "meets the security requirements as a strong biometric, and can be used for payments and app authentication, including banking apps. It is resilient against invalid unlock attempts via other means, like with masks."


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Google to Fix ‘Bug’ That Lets iOS Photos App Users Upload HEIC Images for Free

Google has said it will patch a "bug" in Google Photos that enables iPhone users to store pictures in the cloud in their original quality without counting toward their Google Drive storage limit.

Currently, the Google ‌Photos‌ iOS app happily uploads photos in Apple's efficient HEIC format without requiring them to be converted from "Original Quality" to "High Quality JPEG."

The reason is that the HEIC photos are already smaller than Google's compressed JPEG format, so the ‌Photos‌ app doesn't convert them during upload, meaning the pictures are essentially stored on Google's servers for free in their original size. The quirk was uncovered by a Reddit user last week.

However, the unintentional perk for Apple device owners looks to be on borrowed time. Over the weekend, a Google spokesperson told AndroidPolice: "We are aware of this bug and are working to fix it."

The wording of the statement doesn't exactly make it clear how, though. Google ‌Photos‌ may start converting HEIC photos to the less-efficient High Quality JPEG format during upload, which would result in an additional reduction in quality. Alternatively, Google could allow the pictures to be uploaded as-is but start counting them toward Google Drive usage. We'll have to wait and see which course the search giant takes.

Under Google One plans, Google account holders are entitled to 15GB of free Google Drive cloud storage. Beyond the free allotment, Google charges $1.99 a month for 100GB storage, $2.99 for 200GB a month, and $9.99 a month for 2TB, with additional 10TB and 20TB storage options available.


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Google Pixel 4’s Face Unlock Feature Works With Eyes Closed, Sparking Security Concerns

Google has ignited security concerns over the facial authentication system in its new Pixel 4 smartphone by admitting that it will unlock the device even when the user's eyes are shut.


Google unveiled the Pixel 4 this week to mostly positive reviews, many of which praised the phone for is super-fast new face unlock system, which replaces the fingerprint sensor and works much the same as Apple's Face ID on iPhones, except for one key security feature.

The BBC has discovered that the Pixel 4 can be unlocked even with the user's face even if they're sleeping (or pretending to be asleep). That contrasts with Apple's Face ID system, which engages by default an "Attention Aware" feature that requires the user's eyes to be open for the iPhone to be unlocked. Attention Aware can be disabled for convenience, but the Pixel 4 lacks an equivalent security feature entirely.

To its credit though, Google isn't hiding this fact. A Google support page reads: "Your phone can also be unlocked by someone else if it's held up to your face, even if your eyes are closed. Keep your phone in a safe place, like your front pocket or handbag."

To "prepare for unsafe situations," Google recommends holding the power button for a couple of seconds and tapping Lockdown, which turns off notifications and face recognition unlocking.

In early leaks of the Pixel 4, screenshots revealed a "require eyes to be open" setting for face unlock, so it looks as if Google tried to implement a similar feature to Apple's Attention Aware, but couldn't get it working in time for the device's launch.

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Speaking before the launch, Pixel product manager Sherry Lin said: "There are actually only two face [authorisation] solutions that meet the bar for being super-secure. So, you know, for payments, that level - it's ours and Apple's."

Cyber-security experts disagree.

"If someone can unlock your phone while you're asleep, it's a big security problem," security blogger Graham Cluley told the BBC. "Someone unauthorized - a child or partner? - could unlock the phone without your permission by putting it in front of your face while you're asleep."

In a statement given to the BBC, Google said it would "continue to improve Face Unlock over time."


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Google Event Highlights: Pixel 4, Pixel Buds 2, Pixelbook Go, and More

Google today unveiled several new products at its Made by Google event in New York, including the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL smartphones, Pixel Buds 2 wireless earphones, Pixelbook Go notebook, and new Nest devices.

Pixel 4

The new Pixel 4 and 4 XL were widely rumored ahead of their release, to the point that Google even shared teaser photos of its own, and now the devices are official. Key features include 90Hz displays, a new rear-facing 16-megapixel telephoto lens, facial authentication, motion sensing, and more.


The Pixel 4 sports a 5.7-inch OLED display, while the larger Pixel 4 XL has a 6.3-inch OLED display. Both displays are 90Hz for a smoother experience, compared to 60Hz for the iPhone 11 Pro and most other smartphones.

With the Pixel 4, Google says you can fine-tune the brightness and amount of detail in the shadows, helping with difficult shots like sunset portraits. And with a new astrophotography capability, Night Sight on the Pixel 4 can capture shots of the night sky, the stars, and even the Milky Way when visible.

Google has moved away from both the notch and rear fingerprint scanner of the Pixel 3, with the Pixel 4 and 4 XL instead featuring a sizeable top bezel housing an earpiece, front camera, and sensors for a facial authentication system similar to Face ID. Google says the Pixel 4 has the "fastest face unlock" of any smartphone.


Google says face unlock on the Pixel 4 is aided by a new Motion Sense feature that uses a miniature radar sensor to detect movement around the phone. The same sensor allows for quick hand gestures for snoozing alarms, dismissing timers, and silencing an incoming call, all without picking up the device.

The Pixel 4 is powered by a 2,800 mAh battery, while the Pixel 4 XL has a 3,700 mAh battery. Other tech specs for both devices include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, Adreno 640 graphics, 64GB or 128GB of storage, 6GB of RAM, Bluetooth 5.0, IP68-rated water and dust resistance, and stereo speakers.

The Pixel 4 and 4 XL start at $799 and $899 respectively, with pre-orders beginning today ahead of an October 24 release. Google will be selling the devices through all the major U.S. carriers for the first time. The devices come in three colors, including Clearly White, Just Black, and limited edition Oh So Orange.

Pixel Buds 2

Unlike the original Pixel Buds, the new version unveiled today feature a truly wireless design like AirPods.


Google says it scanned thousands of ears to create a design that is comfortable for as many people as possible. The new Pixel Buds feature a low-profile look that sits flush in your ear, with a so-called stabilizer arc and interchangeable ear tip ensuring a secure fit, even while exercising.


The ear tip gently seals the ear to isolate outside noises, but a spatial vent below the ear tip lets through a moderate amount of environmental sound so you can stay aware of the things around you. Pixel Buds can also dynamically adjust the volume based on the loudness of the surrounding environment.

Like Siri on the ‌AirPods‌, the Pixel Buds have built-in Google Assistant.


The new Pixel Buds will be available for $179 in spring 2020 in four colors: Clearly White, Oh So Orange, Quite Mint, and Almost Black.

Pixelbook Go

Google's latest Chromebook is the Pixelbook Go, a slim and light notebook that is 13mm thick and weighs just over two pounds.


Tech specs and features include a 13-inch touchscreen, 8th-generation Intel Core processors, up to 16GB RAM, up to 256GB flash storage, up to 12 hours of battery life, a backlight keyboard with soft typing, two USB-C ports, and a headphone jack. Like other Chromebooks, the Pixelbook Go runs Chrome OS.


Pricing starts at $879, with pre-orders starting today in the U.S. and Canada, followed by the U.K. in January.

Nest Mini and Nest Wifi

Google also unveiled the Nest Mini, the successor to the Google Home Mini, with key new features including stronger bass and faster response times. Also under the Nest umbrella is a new Nest Wifi router, which builds upon the Google Wifi router with two times the speed and up to 25 percent better coverage.

MacRumors will have a hands-on overview of Google's new devices later today.


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U.K. Court Reinstates Lawsuit Accusing Google of Bypassing Safari’s Privacy Settings to Track iPhone Users

An appeals court in London has reinstated a lawsuit filed against Google that accuses the company of unlawfully gathering personal information by circumventing the iPhone's default privacy settings, according to Bloomberg.


The collective action, equivalent to a class action lawsuit in the United States, alleged that Google illegally tracked and gathered the personal data of over four million iPhone users in the U.K. between 2011 and 2012. The case was first brought in November 2017 and had been dismissed in October 2018.

"This case, quite properly if the allegations are proved, seeks to call Google to account for its allegedly wholesale and deliberate misuse of personal data without consent, undertaken with a view to a commercial profit," wrote Judge Geoffrey Vos in a ruling today, per the report.

A similar lawsuit was filed in the United States in 2012, when Google was discovered to be circumventing privacy protections in Safari on iOS in order to track users through ads on numerous popular websites.

Specifically, Google took advantage of a Safari loophole that made the browser think that the user was interacting with a given ad, thus allowing a tracking cookie to be installed. With that cookie installed, it became easy for Google to add additional cookies and to track users across the web.

At the time, Safari blocked several types of tracking, but made an exception for websites where a person interacted in some way — by filling out a form, for example. Google added code to some of its ads that made Safari think that a person was submitting an invisible form to Google, thus creating a temporary cookie.

Google stopped this practice after it was reported by The Wall Street Journal, and refuted many details of the report, while Apple closed the loophole in a Safari update shortly after. Google also paid a then-record $22.5 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission over its practices back in 2012.

"Protecting the privacy and security of our users has always been our No. 1 priority," a Google spokeswoman told Bloomberg. "This case relates to events that took place nearly a decade ago and that we addressed at the time."


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