A clean slate
Rick Osterloh, senior vice-president of hardware at Google, discusses the new Google Pixel Slate tablet during a product release event in New York yesterday. Two new Pixel phones will go on sale on October 18 starting at £739.
GOOGLE has launched two phones that answer calls on behalf of the owner in tricky situations as it continues its mission of placing powerful artificial intelligence in the pockets of consumers around the world.
The new handsets, the Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL, feature different screen sizes and prices to rival the line-up for Samsung – Google’s main Android contender.
Both feature Google Assistant, a voice-activated AI that helps answer questions and can now screen irritating calls from telemarketers. When a mystery number calls, it will offer an option to “screen” to find out who is on the other side of the line and offers a menu of responses such as “I’ll call you back later” or to mark it as spam.
The phones also feature Google’s controversial tool “Duplex”, which calls restaurant to make a bookings in a human-like voice when the owner is pressed for time. It raised ethical questions when it was announced earlier this year, but both automated phone features will be available on American handsets before rolling out to the UK.
The two phones, which will ship on November 1, are successors to the critically acclaimed Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Both were praised for their machine learning-led cameras.
Updates include night mode – which automatically detects colours in low lighting, creating vivid pictures in the dark without flash – and improved zoom and automatic smile detect.
The 6.3in-screen Pixel 3 XL will cost up to £969 for the 128GB version and is available on a contract with UK network Three. The Pixel 3, with a 5.5in screen, will cost up to £839. Both are considerably less than the iPhone XS Max, which took the record as the most expensive of its kind last month with a top price of £1,449.
Google’s new smart home products have been priced affordably in comparison to Amazon and Apple, a clear indication that it wants to get into homes quickly to challenge the incumbents.
This includes the Google Pixel Stand, a £69 charging stand that turns the phone into a bedside alarm clock. The new home assistant with a screen, the Google Home Hub, at £139 is aimed at novice cooks with a range of tutorials on YouTube and multiple timers. During the keynote, Google appeared to take a jab at Amazon, claiming that it decided not to add a camera to the hub “so people feel comfortable”.
Suspicions surrounding technology companies putting cameras in homes has reached fever pitch, particularly with regards to AI.
Google’s Rick Osterloh emphasised that using people’s data to improve products was key and Google’s strategy focused on “AI, software and hardware working together”.
Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight, said: “Google has done a good job presenting AI as an enabler as opposed to a technology that threatens all our jobs, but the industry at large is understanding there is a role to play around building its perception”.
Security was a running theme throughout the hour-log keynote in New York, a day after it emerged Google had known its customers’ information was exposed to outsiders for three years and didn’t disclose it until a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Google has closed the leaky website, called Google +, its attempt at creating a social network to rival Facebook.
A member of staff shows the new Google Pixel 3 to a guest at a London launch yesterday