back to article It's Google's hardware launch day, and what do we get? A few Pixel phones, Nest kit, and another Chromecast

Google on Wednesday held a virtual event to introduce its latest Pixel smartphones, a retooled Chromecast video streaming receiver, and a Nest-branded cloud-connected mic-speaker combo. The event, dubbed Launch Night In, wasn't entirely a surprise as the revamped Chromecast units were spotted earlier this week on the shelves …

  1. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Wow! "Hold for Me" is so obvious, now it's here. I want it! I want it on my Moto and my iPhone. Now! Yesterday! Please! (Thinks, "Maybe this is worth giving all my data to Google for.")

    Even when I don't mind the tune, why does so much "hold music" sound like it's being played from a 7" single that's been buried on a sandy beach since 1990?

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Because it's most likely from a 8khz mono source (default on many phone systems)

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        and not helped by the very low bitrate encoding used for phone audio is characterised for voice, not music.

        1. Boufin

          Anyone old enough to remember Dial-a-Disc on 160? That took distortion to a new level, and I'm not just talking about Gary Glitter here.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Personally I always felt that being on hold for more than a minute was an insult and a failure of customer care, if you are dealing with a company that treats you this way then clearly they don't care enough about their customers, they could instead just take your number and call you can when they can but why bother when the customer is stupid enough to fund the call instead of them.

      Chances are you are calling because they messed up and forcing you put your life on hold to fix there failure is IMHO a yet another pizztake.

      Mind you if people use this "feature" then google will nodoubt start a publication of answer times, it might remove the problem completely even if google allow companies to pay them to remove the form the sh1tlist so lets watch and see

      1. JetSetJim

        HMRC on 30th Jan, anyone? Sometimes it's impossible to cater for the demand in this way. Even the supermarkets that say "if there's a queue we'll open a new till" often run out of tills to open - the daily patterns of how people call various organisations make it hard, and Mr Erlang had a formula for working out such things (I suspect there's a lot of back-room "just what will our customers put up with").

        My main gripe is against the ones that don't tell you where you are in the queue, at least. It should be standard practice to have a "you are at position N in the queue" so you can estimate whether it's worth your time waiting.

        1. Robert Grant Silver badge

          > HMRC on 30th Jan, anyone? Sometimes it's impossible to cater for the demand in this way.

          It's not impossible, it's just HMRC decided to make everyone do something at the same time. Entirely in their power to change that.

          1. matjaggard

            But it's only available for free phone numbers in the US

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > It's not impossible, it's just HMRC decided to make everyone do something at the same time. Entirely in their power to change that.

            I think you'll find that it was a bunch of MPs who approved the legislation that requires everyone to do something at the same time.

          3. JetSetJim

            > HMRC decided to make everyone do something at the same time

            err - well, they decided to make everyone do something *by* the same time, with three-quarters of a year to do it in (even if the first couple of months are difficult as you're waiting for banks to send annual statements of interest, employers to issue P60/P11D's, etc...).

            Not sure it's easy to tie everyone's tax return (and presumably their tax year) to an arbitrary date in the year (e.g. birthday) - although in fairness that's what happens for companies.

    3. MatthewSt

      Prior Art - like a lot of things, already exists from a third party

    4. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Does anyone believe "Hold for Me" will actually stop listening after it informs you that a human is now on the line?

  2. petef

    Hold For Me?

    I wonder how well Hold For Me performs. I have had too much experience recently of contacting utilities, etc on behalf of an elderly relative. The general pattern is to play muzak for a bit and then tell you how important your call is to them. I had my hopes raised the first few times, I don't think a bot would fare much better. The worst was AA insurance who I gave up on after 45 minutes on hold. Their repeated message was "we are here for you 24/7", patently not. They eventually responded to my earlier email after two days. I say the worst but I am into my third month of waiting for BT to switch to the Basic account we are entitled to.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hold For Me?

      I have the Pixel 4a (not 5g) so it's not available to me yet. But based on my experience with Google Assistant's automatic call screening I have high hopes and I will try it when I can.

      According to their blog, it can not only recognize music but also distinguish between a prerecorded message and a live person. Unfortunately it's only in beta (which I try to avoid), it's only currently available for the 4a-5g and 5 (although I assume it will be generally available eventually), and it's only available in the US.

    2. Shadow Systems

      Re: Hold For Me?

      45minutes? Only 45minutes? LUXURY!

      There have been times when I'll call my ISP (Comcast) & get told there are *hundreds* of callers ahead of me & my aprox wait time is measured in *hours*. They can't be bothered to install a "push 5 to get a call back when it's your turn" option, instead forcing you to wait the entire time.

      I think even a Googlebot would get reduced to frothing at the mouth incandescent fury over the crap some companies think it's ok to put their callers through.

      I switch my phone to SpeakerPhone mode, plug it in to the charger so it doesn't die in boredom, & lay the unit on the desk beside me. I'll do other stuff on my computer while I wait & only reach for the phone if a Human eventually picks up.

      I wonder how fast they would get a live person to answer the call if every minute a customer was kept on hold triggered a Taser zap to the family jewels of the CEO?

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Hold For Me?

        Welcome to the free market USA.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Hold For Me?

          Your call IS important to us, but sadly not important enough to actually employ someone to answer it.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hold For Me?

          Actually in economic theory, for a proper free market you must have an effective regulator.

          This is a sign of lack of free market competition, which means a weak ineffective regulator. They’re supposed to unkink the broken free flow.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: Hold For Me?

            Two words spring to mind:

            Regulatory Capture

            Another five words that spring to mind are:

            Pai is a corrupt puppet

            Until those are fixed, US telecoms market will never be a functional free market.

      2. JetSetJim

        Re: Hold For Me?

        > "push 5 to get a call back when it's your turn"

        Can't say I've ever trusted those. I suspect the first time you try your details get binned, them figuring if it's that important you'll try again

      3. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Hold For Me?

        >>They can't be bothered to install a "push 5 to get a call back when it's your turn" option

        This would probably mean replacing their entire infrastructure since incoming and outgoing centres are different.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Hold For Me?

          Either location is capable of placing a call, so only one box needs reprogramming. It doesn't even have to be complex. Store the number in a queue (already done). Now hang up and remember the number exists. When the position of that number is low enough (probably one or two places away from getting answered), call them back and put them back into your normal hold system. The box that does the connection between people on hold and call center employees stays the same. The person at the other end doesn't need retraining. The only changes are an additional option in a menu and a function in a program which activates one of the lines and automatically calls out. Since most systems are built around a PBX package that already understands "call this number", it's not rocket science.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hold For Me?

      We have WeQ4U in the UK.. I’ve found it works quite well and does not use minutes.

    4. Fursty Ferret

      Re: Hold For Me?

      I'm sure it'll work well in the USA. Unfortunately Google have a pretty appalling track record of releasing Pixel features globally* so I doubt anyone in the UK will ever get to try it.

      Which is not to say that I'm not tempted as I'm in the last month of a 24 month phone contract. Google Pixel or Samsung S20 FE? Or first iPhone?

      * Delayed OS updates outside the USA, Google Duplex, spam call prevention, spam SMS prevention, advanced caller ID, visual voicemail, Live Caption, etc etc.

    5. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Hold For Me?

      One assumes that since Google developers are not idiots, and they test their products, this blindingly obvious use case has been considered.

      How it works I have no idea... it could detect the words being spoken, it could match the message against a databank of known messages, maybe recorded messages have different audio profiles... if a human can realise within 1-2s I would bet software can.

    6. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Hold For Me?

      My concern is what happens when a person picks up. If I have the phone near me, it still has to inform me of the person so I can pick up. That could take five to ten seconds, and an impatient or busy person on the other end might decide that my silence means I abandoned the call. If this feature makes someone hang up on my call, it won't be very useful. What would be more useful is a function where the automatic system could call me back when a representative can be allocated to me. The benefits of this don't seem to have gotten through to most big companies I've called.

  3. RM Myers

    Google says Stadia support is coming to Google TV in 2021.

    I assume this means Stadia will still be a thing in 2021. Given the "warm" reception it received, I'm actually surprised.

  4. RyokuMas

    Old news...

    "... and a Nest-branded cloud-connected mic-speaker combo..."

    Didn't that launch over eighteen months ago?

  5. Jason Hindle


    The 4a 5g really looks like a 5a while the 5 looks like what the 5a would have been had Google gone for a higher end processor. No complaints about my 3a XL though 5g might be appealing at some point down the line. Anyway, it probably makes sense to quit the high end, for now (at least until Qualcom starts catching up with Apple's lead in high end ARM).

  6. Stephen Wilkinson

    I liked my 3aXL until it stopped working 10 days out of warranty.

    Usual points with all Google Pixels though, I wish they had an expansion slot which is why it got replaced by a far cheaper Motorola

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Streaming audio, multi-room, etc

    Is the most over-complicated, incompatible, standards-averse, under-performing, over-priced, bug-ridden, nerdgasmic, pile of doings. By all means spend your dosh on flimsy plastic speakers with comms drop-outs, destructive resonant nodes and one-note bass huffing away through badly tuned reflex ports that make the stereo in a 1984 Ford Escort sound good in comparison.

    Or you could invest in wired audio - your money goes into the bits that make the nice noises, not into buggy software and psycho-acoustic flim-flammery, and it just works.

    1. Martin
      Thumb Up

      Re: Streaming audio, multi-room, etc

      Certainly. Then add a couple of second hand squeezeboxen from ten years ago, and you've got the best of both worlds.

      Or even a couple of second-hand chromecast audios.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Streaming audio, multi-room, etc

        The great benefit of the chromecast and similar devices is their simplicity. My inner nerd is drawn to complexity for the sake of it but ... must resist. I do have a couple of 2nd hand airplay streamers. £2 each from the bay. They’re in a drawer

  8. NickyD

    Stopped reading after 'backside cameras' as I went into mind-boggle overload.

    1. Danny 2

      Two backside cameras? Who has two backsides? Well, I suppose Selena Gomez and Mark Ronson.

      I'm amused folk are complaining about phoning HMRC, I guess I'm the only person who's spent 6 hours listening to 30 second loops of Vivaldi on the Job Centre line.

      1. JetSetJim

        > I'm amused folk are complaining about phoning HMRC

        I'm not complaining, just pointing out that 1 day before the final filin deadline for the previous tax year that ended 9 months ago their phone lines get a bit busy.

        I'm thankful I've never had a bad experience calling HMRC - sometimes a bit of a queue when I have been close to the wire, but otherwise all good with refreshingly competent staff each time.

        I can't beat the 6 hours on hold - 2 is about the most and that was each of Enstroa (v bad utility provider I inherited in a house move that tried to force an account on me before they'd let me attempt to switch) and BT (when applying for a new line for a new build). I no longer have to deal with either of them, thankfully.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Who has two backsides?

        Most politicians?

        One for defecating and the other for talking out of.

        Back on topic, I may take a look at the new Chromecast - my old 'hockey puck' model is definitely starting to get a bit past it now.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    rated IP68 for water and dust resistance.

    This might be a good replacement for my Samsung S8.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      I'd double check that

      I saw elsewhere it was rated IPX8 - which means it has the water resistance but wasn't tested for dust resistance. Not sure what that might mean in practice, but it would worry me a bit if they cheaped out on part of the test.

  10. Martin

    A Chromecast with a remote? Why?

    So, why on earth do we need a remote with a chromecast? I've got a remote with my TV, a remote with my DVD player, a remote for my AV receiver, and now a remote for my chromecast? And it's only a tiny thing, so it'll rapidly end up down the side of the sofa.

    Strikes me as a step back into the past. I've already replaced all my remotes with a Logitech Harmony remote, and in any case I can do it all via the app on my phone anyway.

    1. Mark192

      Re: A Chromecast with a remote? Why?

      Martin said "So, why on earth do we need a remote with a chromecast? I've got..."

      Do you know what my clumsy daughter, visiting mother in law etc doesn't have? My phone :-)

      The remote likely added less than a dollar to the cost and you don't need it - it's just another option, primarily useful for people not on your WiFi and people who don't always have their phone on them.

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