Google un­veils new smart­phone line Pixel

Jamaica Gleaner - - MARKET REPORTS - – AP

GOOGLE LAUNCHED an ag­gres­sive chal­lenge to Ap­ple and Sam­sung on Tues­day, introducing its own new line of smart­phones called Pixel, which are de­signed to show­case a dig­i­tal helper the com­pany calls ‘Google As­sis­tant’.

The new phones rep­re­sent a big new push by Google to sell its own con­sumer de­vices, in­stead of largely just sup­ply­ing soft­ware for other man­u­fac­tur­ers.

At a start­ing price of US$649, the new phones are aimed at the same mar­kets as Ap­ple’s iPhone and Sam­sung’s Galaxy flag­ship phones.

Google ex­ec­u­tives touted fea­tures such as a pow­er­ful cam­era and long-last­ing bat­tery dur­ing a prod­uct event Tues­day, where they said the phones will be sold in two screen sizes — 5 inches and 5.5 inches — and three colours: black, sil­ver and blue.

But they’re clearly hop­ing that the new Pixel phones will be dis­tin­guished by their use of Google’s soft­ware. A cen­tral el­e­ment of all the new de­vices is the Google As­sis­tant, a dig­i­tal helper that uses ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to de­liver what CEO Sun­dar Pichai de­scribed as “a per­sonal Google for each and ev­ery user”

Google makes most of its money from on­line soft­ware and dig­i­tal ads. But it’s putting more em­pha­sis on hard­ware as it com­petes for consumers’ at­ten­tion.

New de­vices could help Google keep its ser­vices front and cen­tre in the bat­tle for consumers’ at­ten­tion, said an­a­lyst Julie Ask at For­rester Research. Un­like a new mo­bile app or other soft­ware, she noted, it can be an ex­pen­sive gam­ble to build and ship new hard­ware prod­ucts. “But if you’re Google, you can’t af­ford to stop plac­ing bets.”

BEST FEA­TURES

Google has sold smart­phones and tablets un­der the Nexus brand, which it launched in 2010 as a way to show off the best fea­tures of its An­droid soft­ware. But it put rel­a­tively lit­tle ef­fort into pro­mot­ing those de­vices, which have mostly ended up in the hands of Google purists.

An­droid al­ready pow­ers the ma­jor­ity of smart­phones sold around the world. But Sam­sung, the big­gest maker of An­droid phones, has in­creas­ingly been adding more of its own soft­ware – even its own Sam­sung Pay mo­bile wal­let – on the phones it sells. Another big ri­val, Ap­ple, has built its own ser­vices, such as on­line maps and its own Siri per­sonal as­sis­tant, to re­place Google’s apps on the iPhone.

Google is also pro­mot­ing its new Home smart speaker as a way to ac­cess Google’s knowl­edge — hands-free.

It will sug­gest the best way to get places, thanks to Google Maps, or find an­swers from other sources, such as Wikipedia. A fea­ture called My Day will also of­fer a sum­mary of your up­com­ing day. You’ll need to give Google per­mis­sion to ac­ti­vate that.

Ama­zon, Ap­ple and Mi­crosoft all have vari­a­tions of such as­sis­tants.

Home will work closely with other Google de­vices. For ex­am­ple, if you have a Chrome­cast stream­ing de­vice, you can use Home to con­trol video on your TV. The fea­ture will be limited at first.

Home will be avail­able for al­most US$130 and come with six months of YouTube Red, a US$10a-month ad-free sub­scrip­tion. Orders start Tues­day; Home will be in stores on Novem­ber 4. The cylin­der-shaped Echo costs US$180, though Ama­zon also sells a smaller ver­sion shaped like a hockey puck that sells for US$50.

PICHAI

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