Google has launched two own-brand smartphones, the Pixel and Pixel XL, in a bid to take on Apple and its iPhone 7 head on.
The two Android smartphones are the first to carry Google’s branding without being associated with another manufacturer and are a clear mark in the sand by the Android-maker: the fight with Apple is now on for the top premium smartphone.
Google even went as far as to reference Apple on stage, showing a “storage full” message from an iPhone, something it said the Pixel would avoid with unlimited full resolution backups of photos and videos using Google Photos’ cloud storage.
James Nugent, product manager for Pixel, said: “We’re putting a stake in the ground for the Android ecosystem in terms of what we think is the best from both the software and hardware point of view, which has been developed and made by Google.”
The Google phones come in two sizes with either a 5in or a 5.5in screen, have the latest processor the Snapdragon 821 from industry leader Qualcomm, aluminium bodies and the next version of Android 7.1 Nougat.
The Pixel smartphones also have 12 megapixel cameras with large 1.55 micrometre pixels for boosted low light performance on the back, which were awarded a rating of 89 by camera analysts DxOMark, making it the highest ranked smartphone camera to date, beating both Apple’s iPhone 7 with 87 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge with 88.
For Google, however, the most important part of the Pixel phones is the new Google Assistant, which replaces Google Now and Google voice search previously available to other Android smartphones with a new integrated smart assistant.
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Nugent said: “This is the first device with Google Assistant, a conversational, contextually aware assistant that will help you through you day. You can talk to it, ask it various questions and it will provide a consistent experience throughout, as well as prompting you with information when it thinks its relevant.”
Ana Corrales, vice president of global operations and Google Store, said: “We’re leveraging 18 years of search and evolving it into an assistant powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence that we believe will be the next wave of computing for the next 10 years or so and it will get better and better as people use it.”
Google Assistant will be available through the familiar “OK Google” hotword, which can be said at any time, and a long press of the Pixel’s home button. But the Assistant access through the Pixel is just one of a new roster of devices Google is pushing, including a new Amazon Echo-like speaker, Google Home, and future products including tablets and smartwatches.