Home Tech & Science Google in 2018: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Google in 2018: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Katie Canales/Business Insider
  • Google launched a ton of exciting new technologies this year.
  • The company was also the center of several different controversies in 2018.
  • With 2019 right around the corner, we looked back at the highlights – and the lowlights – from another full year of Google.

Google introduced a ton of new hardware in 2018.

Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

Google unveiled a $130 gadget called Google Home Hub, which controls all of your smart-home devices (no need to open a million different apps), and shows you information at a glance.

Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

Read our review of Google’s Home Hub.


Google also released its Pixel Slate tablet, which has a brilliant display, dual front-facing speakers, two 8-megapixel cameras, and a fingerprint sensor.

Google

Like Apple and its iPad Pro, Google also made a special keyboard and stylus that work specifically with the Pixel Slate.

The Pixel Slate starts at $600, the Pixel Slate Keyboard costs $200, and the Pixelbook Pen costs $100.


And of course, Google also unveiled the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones, the excellent successors to last year’s Pixel 2.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Google’s Pixel phones are one of the best ways to experience Android, and they have the best cameras on any smartphone you can find right now.

Read our reviews of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.


Google updated some other hardware lines this year, like the Chromecast streaming dongle, but the company made a much bigger impact with new and exciting software.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google added a new feature to Gmail called “Smart Compose,” which uses machine learning and predictive text to autocomplete your messages. It works really well!

YouTube/Google IO

Here’s how to activate Smart Compose in Gmail.


Google Assistant also made big strides. You can now have continued conversations with the Assistant, and it can now parse multiple commands in a single sentence. It’s also more natural-sounding than ever before, and you can choose from a bunch of new voices, including that of R&B star John Legend.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Parents will love this one: Google finally gave its Assistant a “politeness” feature, where you get credit for saying “please” when you ask Google Assistant for something. It’s designed to teach children to not be bossy when asking for things.

Google/YouTube

Learn more about Google Assistant’s “Pretty Please” feature.


Google’s own CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled a wild new feature called Duplex where you can ask Google Assistant to call businesses on your behalf, and Google’s AI will schedule appointments for you. Yes, this is totally real.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

Learn more about Google’s Duplex technology.


Google’s new “Call Screen” feature for the Pixel 3 is the first time you’ll be able to use Google’s Duplex technology, which uses Google Assistant to deal with phone calls on your behalf.

Google

Call Screen will tell the caller it’s your assistant, and ask what the call is about. The ensuing conversation is transcribed on your lock screen in real time so you can choose to answer or hang up.


A new feature called Subscribe with Google lets you access all your paid magazine and news content anywhere, including on Google Search, Google News, and the publishers’ sites.

Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Google’s new Android software, Android P, launched with a great new feature that every phone needs: “Flip to Shhh.” Just put your phone face down on a table, and it will automatically silence itself and activate “do not disturb” mode.

Google

Google announced a very cool Google Maps feature, which uses your phone’s camera to navigate around town using Street View. Giant arrows and animated characters point you in the right direction, like a real-world version of “Crazy Taxi.”

Google

It’s not quite ready for the public just yet, but we got our first real look this year.


Google’s futuristic camera software, Lens, finally made its public debut. It can recognize objects so you can buy items online by pointing your camera at them in the real world, or you can even copy the text of whatever you’re pointing at onto your phone. It’s pretty wild.

Google

Google Lens debuted on the Pixel 2 in 2017, but rolled out to non-Pixel phones and iOS devices this year.

Learn more about Google Lens.


Google put rival smartphone makers to shame with an incredible Pixel 3 feature called “Night Sight.” It automatically lights up dark settings in a very natural way, negating any need for flash photography.

Google

Learn more about Google’s Night Sight feature.


Another fun feature that made its debut on the Pixel 3 is Google’s new “Photobooth” mode, which automatically takes pictures if you’re smiling or making a funny face.

Google

In October, Google unveiled a groundbreaking new service called “Project Stream,” which lets you stream video games to your Google Chrome web browser. This negates any need for a high-end PC to run great-looking games.

Google

Project Stream, like Nvidia’s GeForce Now service, leverages computers in the cloud to power the games themselves. All you need is a reliable streaming connection to play.

Learn more about Google’s Project Stream.


Google is working on even more innovative technologies behind the scenes.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

One particularly exciting development we learned about relates to Google Chrome. According to a report from Wired, Google’s Chrome team is considering ways to make web browsing generally easier to understand, so you can immediately know if you’re on a trusted website, or so you can find a website without needing to enter the correct address.


But it’s impossible to talk about Google’s year in tech without mentioning its company controversies. To name a few lowlights that occurred in 2018 …

Aly Song/Reuters

Google was apparently building a censored search engine for China and quietly collecting data from people in the country until <a href=”https://theintercept.com/2018/12/17/google-china-censored-search-engine-2/”target=”_blank”>backlash from Google employees</a> led to the project’s cancellation.

Comparably

Learn more here.


<a href=”https://www.businessinsider.com/3-reasons-google-was-fined-by-the-eu-2018-7″target=”_blank”>The EU fined Google $5 billion</a> in July for antitrust violations — basically for abusing its role as a dominant player in the industry to quash competition.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Learn more here.


<a href=”https://www.businessinsider.com/google-ceo-sundar-pichai-testifies-before-congress-2018-12″target=”_blank”>Lawmakers grilled Google CEO Sundar Pichai</a> in December after the company was accused of suppressing conservative voices in its search results.

Getty

Read Pichai’s full remarks to Congress here.


<a href=”https://www.businessinsider.com/google-caves-to-criticism-over-military-drone-work-wont-renew-project-maven-pentagon-contract-2018-6″target=”_blank”>About a dozen Google employees quit</a>, and thousands of employees signed a letter in June to protest Google’s “Project Maven,” where Google had been working with the Pentagon to analyze drone footage. Google shuttered the project in response.

REUTERS/Josh Smith

Learn more here.


In November, <a href=”https://www.businessinsider.com/google-walkout-staff-protest-at-sexual-misconduct-2018-11″target=”_blank”>thousands of Google employees around the world walked out of their workplaces</a> after a bombshell New York Times report detailed how Google protected executives who were accused of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Troy Wolverton/Business Insider

View photos of the Google walkouts here.


In August, <a href=”https://www.apnews.com/828aefab64d4411bac257a07c1af0ecb/AP-Exclusive:-Google-tracks-your-movements,-like-it-or-not”target=”_blank”>an Associated Press investigation discovered</a> that Google was still collecting location data from users even if they had their Location History turned off. After the report was published, <a href=”https://www.businessinsider.com/ap-google-clarifies-it-tracks-users-who-pause-location-history-2018-8″target=”_blank”>Google quietly updated its help page</a> to describe how location settings work. People didn’t like Google’s handling of the situation.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Learn more here.


Google is an excellent company with a wonderful approach to technology, but the company has a history of getting caught bending the rules, which usually leads to some form of backpedaling or apology from higher-ups. This, frankly, should not happen. Here’s hoping Google improves — and continues to listen to its employees — in 2019.

Facebook/Life at Google

 

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