Google coun­ters Ap­ple with Nexus phones

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

Google fired back at Ap­ple on Tues­day with a pair of new smart­phones, a “con­vert­ible” tablet and other gad­getry ahead of the yearend hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son.

The Cal­i­for­nia tech gi­ant un­veiled two new Nexus smart­phones with en­hanced fea­tures in­clud­ing fin­ger­print sen­sors and im­proved cam­eras aimed at the high end of the mar­ket dom­i­nated by Ap­ple and Sam­sung.

Google said it was part­ner­ing with South Korea’s LG for its 5.2-inch screen Nexus 5X, and with China’s Huawei for its “ph­ablet” sized 5.7-inch Nexus 6P.

Both hand­sets will be sold un­locked, with Google hop­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on a trend in the U.S. and other mar­kets away from smart­phone sub­si­dies as part of long-term con­tracts.

“We care about mak­ing sure there are af­ford­able, high qual­ity smart­phones for users around the world,” said Sun­dar Pichai, the Google prod­uct chief who is slated to head the com­pany’s largest unit un­der a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion an­nounced ear­lier this year.

The phones, which aim to show­case the Google An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem, were avail­able for or­der­ing in the United States, Bri­tain, Ja­pan and Ire­land, with more coun­tries to be added next week, Google said as it un­veiled the phones at a San Fran­cisco media event.

The Nexus 5X starts at US$379 for U.S. cus­tomers and the 6P starts at US$499.

The de­vices will fea­ture the new An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem known as Marsh­mal­low, which al­lows for fin­ger­print sen­sors for un­lock­ing and other fea­tures in­clud­ing An­droid Pay.

The phones are priced be­low the pre­mium de­vices from Ap­ple such as the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, and sim­i­lar of­fer­ings from Sam­sung.

With the Nexus-branded de­vices, Google is able to con­trol much of the hard­ware and soft­ware in a man­ner sim­i­lar to Ap­ple, which has its own op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

“We try to push the next gen­er­a­tion of com­put­ing for­ward; to do that we build hard­ware,” Pichai said of Google mak­ing its own branded de­vices.

The new soft­ware al­lows for a voice-com­manded Now On Tap vir­tual as­sis­tant to be sum­moned by hold­ing down the home screen but­ton.

Google makes An­droid mo­bile soft­ware avail­able free to de­vice mak­ers, but makes its Nexus line to show­case ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

While An­droid is used on some 80 per­cent of smart­phones world­wide, many de­vices use older ver­sions of the soft­ware with car­ri­ers of­ten slow to re­lease up­grades.

The Pixel C is the first tablet built ground-up by Google and is seen as an al­ter­na­tive to the iPad Pro un­veiled this month and Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face.

The “C” in the name stands for “con­vert­ible” be­cause it fea­tures an op­tional key­board that dou­bles as a cover and con­nects mag­net­i­cally for lap­top-com­puter style use.

“We think the Pixel C tablet and key­board ex­pe­ri­ence re­ally un­locks ways to play and be pro­duc­tive across one de­vice,” Google’s An­drew Bow­ers said while show­ing off the new hard­ware.

Pixel C tablet will be avail­able in time for the year-end hol­i­days at a start­ing price of US$499, with the key­board priced at US$149, ac­cord­ing to Google.

Google un­veiled an up­graded ver­sion of its pop­u­lar Chrome­cast de­vice that plugs into tele­vi­sion screens to stream con­tent wire­lessly from the in­ter­net, with smart­phones or tablets serv­ing as con­trols.

The com­pany also in­tro­duced Chrome­cast Au­dio, a pen­dant sized de­vice de­signed to plug into stereo speak­ers for stream­ing mu­sic, pod­casts, YouTube or other au­dio con­tent through home sound sys­tems.

“Now you have a sim­ple way to am­plify your ex­pe­ri­ence to the big­gest de­vices in the home,” said Rishi Chan­dra of the Chrome­cast team.

Chan­dra an­nounced that the mo­bile app of mu­sic-stream­ing ser­vice Spo­tify will work with Chrome­cast Au­dio, which avoids Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity hic­cups.

Chrome­cast Au­dio promised to pro­vide a low-cost way for peo­ple to out­fit homes with In­ter­net “smart” stereo sys­tems, ac­cord­ing to Gart­ner an­a­lyst Brian Blau.

“It is an in­ter­est­ing play on hav­ing your mu­sic any­where you want,” Blau said.

Both new Chrome­cast de­vices kept the US$35 price of the ear­lier ver­sion.

AP

A re­porter takes a pic­ture of new Google de­vices on dis­play dur­ing a Google event in San Fran­cisco, Tues­day, Sept. 29. Google is coun­ter­ing the re­lease of Ap­ple’s latest iPhones with two de­vices run­ning on “Marsh­mal­low,” a new ver­sion of An­droid soft­ware de­signed to steer and doc­u­ment even more of its users’ lives.

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