Last week, it was revealed that Google would be hosting a breakfast this morning with Sundar Pichai. It was assumed that he would spend the morning talking about Android and perhaps a new Nexus 7. He and other Googlers did that, but they also announced what amounts to a refresh of last year’s Nexus Q.
Pichai kicked off the event talking about the success of last year’s Nexus 7. He said that Nexus 7 accounted for more than 10 percent of all Android tablets sold in 2012. With the new Nexus 7, they’re hoping to capitalize on that growth even further.
When the new Nexus 7 was finally unveiled, Google confirmed much of what we’ve already seen these past few weeks through a number of leaks. In short, the new Nexus 7’s CUP is 1.8x faster than the previous model, and its GPU is 4x faster than the previous model. It sports a full 1080p HD display – the first of its kind on a 7-inch tablet. They were also quick to note that the new Nexus 7 now features stereo speakers and virtual surround sound.
All that’s well and good, but what 4G LTE connectivity? The new Nexus 7 will ship unlocked with 4G LTE support for AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile on a single model. The days of having to buy an AT&T or T-Mobile Nexus 7 from the Google Play store are now gone.
As expected, the new Nexus 7 will ship with Android 4.3. This latest version of Jelly Bean doesn’t offer any major changes, but it does improve already existing software. For starters, the multi-user accounts for tablets that was introduced in Android 4.2 have been upgraded with restricted profiles in 4.3. What that means is that you can restrict certain profiles from accessing certain content. The example used is that a child’s profile won’t have access to in-app purchases inside of their apps.
Other additions include support for Bluetooth Low Energy and OpenGL ES 3.0. They noted that the new Nexus 7 is the first Android device to support the OpenGL ES standard and developers are already taking advantage of it to build beautiful games for the device.
The biggest addition to Android 4.3 is what Google calls DRM APIs. They’ve been working together with Netflix to provide full 1080p streaming on the new Nexus 7. Previously, Netflix streaming on tablets was restricted to SD video due to a lack of strong protection software. The Netflix app has already been updated to take advantage of this new functionality, and is now waiting upon the Android 4.3 update to use it.
Speaking of which, when will Android 4.3 be out? Google says that it will start updating the original Nexus 7, the Nexus 4, the Nexus 10 and the Galaxy Nexus to Android 4.3 starting today. It will also be coming to the Nexus editions of the HTC One and Galaxy S4 soon.
As for Google Play, the only two major additions are the Google Play Games app and Google Play Textbook category. The former adds a hub where players can see all of their games and all of their Google+ friends playing games in a central location. The latter adds interactive textbooks to Google Play from all five major textbook publishers in the U.S. It will also support textbook rentals.
So, when will you be able to get your hands on the new Nexus 7? Google says the 16GB and 32GB Wi-Fi models will be available via Google Play and retailers on July 30 for $229 and $269 respectively. The 32GB 4G LTE model will be available in the coming weeks for $349.
After the new Nexus 7 business was concluded, Pichai took the stage again to talk about the importance on online video. He said that Google is looking for a way to bring everybody’s favorite video content to the big screen from the comfort of their mobile devices. Well, that’s where Chromecast comes in.
Chromecast can be thought of as the successor to last year’s Nexus Q, but it does a little bit more. For starters, it’s a tiny two-inch long dongle that connects via your HDMI port. Instead of Android, it runs a slimmed down version of Chrome OS. It also supports pretty much every device in the house, including Android devices, iOS devices, Chromebooks and Windows notebooks.
Chromecast works by essentially pushing the content that’s currently playing on your mobile device onto your TV. It doesn’t use up your phone’s resources, however, as it pulls the video straight from the cloud. In other words, you’re free to do other things on your mobile device after you queue up a video to play on the TV via the YouTube app.
Of course, YouTube isn’t the only application that Chromecast supports. It also supports Netflix, Google Play Movies, Google Play Music and Google+ Photos. It can also put your current Chrome tab up on the TV from a Chromebook, Windows laptop or Macbook.
Google wants Chromecast to support more apps and devices so it will be releasing a developer preview of what it calls the Google Cast SDK today. The SDK will allow developers to build Chromecast support directly into their app so users can project their apps onto the TV.
So, when can you get your hands on the Chromecast? It will be available later today from the Google Play Store, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com for $35. It will also be available at Best Buy retail locations next week.