Product Design

The Product Designer’s Guide to Made by Google 2018

At 2018’s Made By Google event this week, the tech giant announced a few new devices that they hope will help users live more thoughtfully. These latest Google devices included the new Pixel 3 smartphones, a tablet called Pixel Slate, and a Google Home Hub smart display.

Whether or not you’re in the market for this year’s Google products yourself, as creators of digital experiences, your users might buy, use, and love them. The opportunities and limitations of these new items can shape our user’s lives and the experiences we create for them. For this reason, it’s important to understand Google’s new hardware and software.

Here’s our quick look at the major announcements from Google’s 2018 Made by Google event.

Pixel 3 & Pixel Stand

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones have the specs, quality, and camera tech we’ve come to know and love from Google. New capabilities clearly intended to compete with Apple’s new iPhone Xs and Xs MAX, such as a camera with machine learning-backed “night mode” which promises to do away with your need for flash photography altogether, will no doubt complicate users’ upgrade decisions.

To complement the new Pixels, Google announced the Pixel Stand, a new wireless charging dock that not only charges devices but turns the user’s phone into a lightweight smart display.

When the phone is docked in the stand, it provides a whole new experience. The interface changes to be larger and easier to see from across the room. It also uses Google Assistant to give users easy access to features right from the lock screen. Users can set an alarm or reminder, perform Google Actions, and interact with Assistant in other helpful ways without taking it off the charging stand.

We’ve come to think of our smartphones as devices that are always on us. But across its new device lineup, Google has thought through ways to make smartphones more useful when we need to put them down; whether that’s to charge them or in an attempt to disconnect from the digital world.

Finding ways to make experiences helpful for users when their devices aren’t on them is something to consider. Creating a multimodal experience by extending your app to a Google Action or tapping into other Assistant capabilities could help with this. Outside of Assistant, sending notifications at the right moments and leveraging other ways to put your app’s actions at users’ fingertips are two more things that come to mind.

Pixel Slate tablet

The Slate tablet is the newest device in the Pixel family. Google describes it as a combo of the best features of a tablet, desktop computer, and a laptop. It is powerful enough to use in the office, and its display and audio specs make it perfect for enjoying movies and entertainment.

Google reimagined and optimized its Chrome OS for the Pixel Slate. With a detailed touchscreen display, the tablet is designed for handheld use– though it can be used with the Pixelbook Pen and a detachable keyboard. Despite being a tablet, it still delivers a full desktop Chrome experience and features.

Over the past few years, Google has added the ability for Chrome OS devices to get Android apps through the Play Store. Running apps was a big selling point for Google’s 2017 Pixelbook laptop. This brought about new considerations for how users could download and use the experiences we create. These same things apply to the Pixel Slate tablet, especially since it can be used as a touchscreen, with a stylus, or a keyboard. Your Android apps should be able to provide a great experience no matter how users interact with them or on what device.

Google Home Hub smart display

Google’s Home product line has focused on bringing Assistant to users via voice-only smart speakers. Through conversations with Assistant, users get more done in the home with their voices. To make Assistant even more powerful, the new Google Home Hub smart display has a touchscreen to allow for voice and visual-driven conversations with Assistant.

The Hub was consciously designed without a camera so users can feel comfortable placing it in any room. Google sees the kitchen as a great spot for the smart display, allowing users to ask Assistant questions, set timers, pull up YouTube videos, and get step-by-step instructions for recipes.

Along with built-in Google Actions that come to life with visuals, third-party Actions can be optimized for smart displays as well. Any voice Action designed for Google Home can have a visual component added to it to make it even more useful on a smart display. Google has guidelines for creating these new rich visual responses. They caution creators of Actions that visuals should be supplemental, not crucial, to voice even on smart displays. Not all voice Actions will need or lend themselves to visuals. Refer to Google’s rich response guidelines and i/O 2018 talks for use cases and best practices on how your Action can work best on smart displays.

Thoughtful Android P features rolling out

Let’s take a step away from hardware to go over a few software-related releases from the event. Google announced Digital Wellbeing as part of Android P early this year. After being in beta, it is now available on the Pixel 3. The feature gives users the ability to track their time spent on Android devices. They can set time limits on daily app use, parents can put restrictions on screen time and cutdown on their family’s device usage.

Google is also incorporating other thoughtful Assistant features across their new devices. The Google Home Hub can be put into Downtime mode to limit the household’s interactions with the device. And the Pixel Slate can be set to do not disturb at anytime to keep users from being distracted by notifications and alerts. These features put users in control of their time spent on, and disconnected from, their devices.

For app creators, these new thoughtful features can present challenges and opportunities. With users being more conscious of time in apps and being on their devices at all, how can we ensure the experiences we build get a slice of their daily limits? Making features and experiences that are useful, easy, and present quick actions for users is essential.


This year, Google has brought its Assistant technology to new “surfaces”– a term used by Google to describe its ecosystem of devices and the way users interact with them. The Google Home Hub and Pixel Slate provide new ways for users to get more done at home, in the office, and on-the-go via voice and visuals. Across its latest Pixel and Home devices, Google’s 2018 product line pairs with thoughtful software that allow users to have more control over their screen time and interaction with technology.

These products and features are making their way into users’ homes, lives, and devices. We must find ways to bring them experiences that make use of voice, touch, and a combination of both on these new surfaces that are as thoughtful as possible to make them worth users’ screen time.

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