Google announced several changes to its Google Fi data plan line-up today that customers will most definitely enjoy. For one, prices are dropping for almost all plans, plus new features are here at no extra cost. Price cuts almost never come with new features, so let’s all celebrate for a moment before we talk about the changes.
Google offers three Google Fi plans still: Flexible, Simply Unlimited, and Unlimited Plus. The Flexible plan is not seeing a price change, but Google is adding free calls between the US, Canada, and Mexico. For the two unlimited plans, new pricing and new features looks as follows:
- $50 per line for 1 line (previously $60)
- $40 per line for 2 lines (previously $45)
- $25 per line for 3 lines (previously $30)
- $20 per line for 4-6 lines (previously $30)
- Data slows after 35GB (previously 22GB)
- Free calls between the US, Canada, and Mexico
- 5GB of high-speed hotspot tethering (previously none)
- $65 per line for 1 line (previously $70)
- $55 per line for 2 lines (previously $60)
- $45 per line for 3 lines (previously $50)
- $40 per line for 4-6 lines (previously $45)
- Data slows after 50GB (previously 22GB)
- Free calls between the US, Canada, and Mexico
For those sticking with an unlimited plan, Google is doing a few things here. For one, the price really is dropping on all tiers. The biggest drops are $10/mo decreases for single lines and 4-6 line accounts on the Simply Unlimited plan. For almost all others, you would see a $5 per line discount.
In the feature department, Google is increasing the full-speed data buckets from 22GB per month to 35GB (Simply) and 50GB (Plus). Google is also adding free calls between US, Canada, and Mexico, as well as 5GB of hotspot tethering on Simply.
Not bad, Google.
Galaxy Watch 4 Owners, Google Assistant Arrives
Samsung and Google took their time, but Google Assistant is now available on the Galaxy Watch 4 series (So much for this summer?). After almost a year of waiting, Google Assistant arrives as an app that can be installed on either Watch 4 model to then be accessed as a voice assistant from the wrist.
The introduction of Google Assistant after all this time does not mean that Samsung’s Bixby is going anywhere. Instead, the two companies are talking about how you will be able to access both Bixby and Google Assistant.
Using Google Assistant from a Galaxy Watch 4 means getting help with on-the-go questions and “access to fast, more natural voice interactions,” according to Samsung. Let’s just hope it works more seamlessly as a stand-alone app than it does on all of the other non-Samsung Wear OS watches who have had pretty lackluster Assistant experiences over the years.
As far as availability, rollout begins today in 10 markets: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, The UK and USA.
At the time of this post, we still aren’t seeing Assistant available to our Galaxy Watch 4 units. Once it shows up and we have a better understanding of how to get it up and running, we’ll share those details. Verizon slipped a month ago and showed a potential setup guide, which you can still view here.
Google Play Store Gets a Massive Design Update
Making a stop through Google Play’s web store this morning on my commute presented me with quite the surprise. Look at this new web layout!
Google Play, for those who haven’t visited the web experience in some time, hasn’t been properly updated in more years than I keep track of. It is as dated as a web experience can get from a company as large as Google and who typically tries to push design ideas across the tech landscape. It has needed an overhaul for a while.
In the new layout, we’re getting a lot of white and empty space when expanded onto a large screen. The experience now starts on a “Games” tab like the Play Store on your phone or tablet, with categories at the top for “Apps,” “Movies & TV,” “Books,” and “Kids” next to it. There are quick controls to switch between phones, tablets, TVs, and Chromebooks as well, and you have to wonder if a Watch option might be there soon enough.
Once you navigate to an app or game listing, there’s more white, but also a modernized look. App icons are now a borderline squircle with shadow, instead of just a box because the app developer only made a square logo. You don’t have to scroll much to see similar apps or to contact the developer, plus the “Install” button is much more prominent. The actual install pop-up, where you select a device, is still the old UI for now.
Maybe most importantly, the recently “Updated on” date isn’t buried at the bottom of the listing and is now just below the app’s description. Now, when you find an app and wonder if it’s an outdated mess or properly maintained before installing it, you won’t have to dig very far.
Should you need to access your library, payments and subscriptions, activity, offers, Play Points, Family settings, etc., you’ll do so by clicking on your profile button in the top right. This matches up to most of Google’s apps at this point and should be a familiar place to look for most of you.
Overall, I’d consider this a clean simplification of an outdated layout. Gone is the sidebar that weirdly pushed you to “Entertainment” for years; in is a straight-forward, online app store that would rather you find games over movies.
To access this, Google likely has to have pushed it to your account. The current default URL for it is play.google.com/store/games. My personal Gmail account is seeing it, while my GSuite account unsurprisingly isn’t.
New Pixel Watch Specs Report Brings the Excitement Back
A Google Pixel Watch report from last weekend sure soured a lot of expectations around these parts. The news suggesting that Google had decided to use a 4 year old processor for their first flagship watch was disappointing, to say the least. However, a follow-up report to end this week should help bring some excitement back and potentially squash any worries you had.
The crew at 9to5Google has heard from a second source who also confirmed the chipset in the Pixel Watch as being the 4-year old Exynos 9110, the same chip first found in the Galaxy Watch. Where this takes a turn away from that being horrible news is in the rest of what this source told them.
Google will apparently add a co-processor alongside that older Exynos 9110 chip, likely to help offload tasks and create a more efficient watch experience. This would be a similar approach to what Qualcomm does with their 3100 and 4100 series chips for wearables. A low powered co-processor could be used to monitor ongoing health and fitness data, power an always-on display, that sort of thing. By taking away activities from the main, power-hungry chip and putting it through a low-power chip, there are big efficiency benefits to be had.
This news makes a lot of sense, because it would allow Google to clear up that talk from Google I/O where they said the watch was “built inside and out by Google.” My guess is that they’ll sell this as a custom experience and brand it with Google Tensor. They basically did the same thing with Tensor on the Pixel 6 line.
As for the rest of the good news, today’s report says we could get 32GB storage and over 1.5GB RAM. If you’ve used a Wear OS watch at any time over the past several years, you are probably aware that the jump to 1GB RAM (from 512MB) dramatically improved the user experience on the platform. We’ve since seen some watches go further and give us 1.5GB RAM, like the Galaxy Watch 4 series. RAM is a crucial spec for smartwatches on Android.
In somewhat related news, we’re now learning that the Pixel Watch will use health sensors on-par with those from Fitbit. That should mean not only heartrate tracking, but SpO2 and ECG readings.
To recap, the seemingly bad news from last week has now turned into what could be seen as OK, if not good news. Google may have customized a still-capable chip to work even better than it ever has, while upgrading things like storage and RAM.
Is the Pixel Watch back on your radar?
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