Today’s discovery by Kyle Bradshaw over at 9to5 Google has the Chrome Unboxed office absolutely buzzing. We usually have to wait until September for these types of leaks and #madebyGoogle hardware hype, but we’re getting a little dose earlier than normal this year. We need to talk about the FCC filing, what it is, and what it could be: but we also need to consider a few other factors that lead me to believe Google’s annual hardware event could come a full month earlier this year.
FCC And ‘Atlas’
First up, we have to talk about the FCC filing that showed up yesterday. As reported by 9to5 Google, a pretty clear #madebyGoogle device cruised through the FCC just this morning and Google’s fingerprints are all over it. The filing was established by Quanta (a manufacturer who’s been behind other #madebyGoogle Chromebooks) for a new FCC ID HFSG021A. If you remove Quanta’s prefix (HFS), you are left with this number: G021A. When viewed on its own, this doesn’t appear to mean much. Taken in contrast to a couple recent #madebyGoogle devices (the Pixel 3a – G3013A and 3a XL – G3020A), you can see the clear connection to Google.
Now, it needs to be noted that the Pixelbook (HFSC0A) and Pixel Slate (HFSC1A) used a slightly different nomenclature, but there’s no reason to think that Google isn’t just changing up the way they internally label the different models of their own devices, and there’s a reason why. Namely, other previous #madebyGoogle Chromebooks have been filed by Quanta in the past and for similar reasons: Wi-Fi radio changes. With the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate, similar filings were made for just this portion of the device. As the FCC regulates only radio hardware, it stands to reason that this device and it’s filing ID – though it closely resembles the Pixel 3a’s ID – are for a Chromebook. If this were a phone or other connected device, there would be a filing for the LTE radios as well.
As it stands, Quanta has only filed for a change of ID for the Wi-Fi chip, similar to what was done for the Pixel Slate back in November of last year. This all points to a pretty strong conclusion that the FCC ID G021A belongs to the next #madebyGoogle Chromebook. We’d posit this is ‘Atlas’ as we’ve made case after case that this is Google’s next Chromebook. Time will tell, of course, and we fully expect more leaks leading up to Google’s annual hardware event.
Now, About That Event
So, we’ve got the whole FCC thing out of the way and it is clear that Google is charging forward on its next Chromebook. Does it seem early to you for an FCC filing for a device that won’t be unveiled until October? Yeah, it does to me too. This isn’t the first time in the past few months I’ve had a hunch that Google may switch things up this year, though, and I think this filing adds to the already-mounting pile of evidence that I might just be right.
First up, you have the Pixel 4 ‘leak’ by Google itself. I’ve talked about it already in a previous post, but it bears repeating: Google has nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting the Pixel 4 out earlier than it is accustomed to. Getting out ahead of the iPhone launch (especially this year with that same, square camera hump) and getting a bit farther out of the rut of Qualcomm’s spring chip launch cycles would only benefit Pixel 4 sales. Additionally, if the rumors are true and Pixel 4 ships with the new, mid-year-upgraded Snapdragon 855 Plus, it could also be one of the first phones of 2019 with that chipset.
Next, you have the news that broke earlier about the Nest Hub Max’s release date. You can read Gabriel’s post about it, but the quick version is Google listed the Nest Hub Max’s release date as a firm September 9th. Multiple outlets have screenshots of the slip up and it has since been removed and marked as “coming soon.” Now, let me ask you: with Nest Home devices not being heralded as the star of any hardware show, why would a slip up like that even need to be so hastily taken down? Why not accept the slip up, accept the free press around it, and get the product out the door as promised? The fact that Google promptly removed it made me sit up and take notice as that type of quick correction is usually reserved for bigger events and bigger hardware.
Finally we have this FCC filing. If we look back at the two previous FCC filings for Google’s own Chromebooks, we find that each happened within weeks of their unveiling. For the Pixelbook, it was days before the event. For the Pixel Slate, the filing happened on November 2nd and the units began shipping out on November 27th. 4-6 weeks ahead of launch isn’t rare when we talk about FCC filings and device launches.
Now, let’s look at how far September 9th is away from today. By my count, it is just over 6 weeks away. What if the extremely early leak of the Pixel 4, the accidental slip-up reveal of the Nest Hub Max, and this FCC filing are all pointing us to an earlier Google Hardware debut? Would it really be that difficult or shocking? Over the past few years, Apple tends to hold its annual iPhone event in mid-September, so this date would get Google out in front of the iPhone launch while also making sense of the early Pixel 4 ‘leak’ and this FCC filing. Without an earlier date, none of these things really make any sense.
In the end, this is Google, after all. They do what they want, when they want, and sometimes there isn’t a ton of rhyme or reason. When I look at all the evidence, however, I’m more inclined to think the folks at Google would move their yet-to-be-announced event a month sooner rather than have all this hardware out and floating around months before launch. If September 9th is the date, that means Google’s Pixel 4 ‘leak’ was less than 2 months early and that the FCC filing for what we assume is ‘Atlas’ is really only 6 weeks prior to launch. Doesn’t that just make too much sense to ignore?