Google yesterday launched its first own-brand phone, a speaker hub that moves its AI personal assistant into conversational territory and a VR headset that promises to “[feel] like clothing.” In doing so the company is issuing direct challenges to Apple’s iPhone, Amazon’s Echo home speaker hub and Samsung’s Gear VR range.
The Pixel and Pixel XL phones, which are manufactured by HTC but fully designed by Google, come at a time when Apple is under the spotlight for the underwhelming new iPhone 7. Strapped with the top-rated smartphone camera, Pixel also comes with unlimited cloud storage for the highest resolution photos and videos, including 4K. By comparison, Apple has limited back-up storage and reduces the resolution and quality of files.
Like the iPhone, Pixel doesn’t have expandable storage, but with unlimited cloud access, this shouldn’t present a problem.
Google are making big claims about battery life and charging – a full day of heavy usage, and 70% charge in just 15 minutes. Strangely Pixel is not waterproof, a feature that is now standard in all high-end smartphones.
The phone has the latest Snapdragon processor and run the latest Android software, naturally. To compete with Apple’s FaceTime, Google have pre-installed the Duo application on Pixel – but to make video calls to another smartphone, the end user will need to be running that app too, a problem that Google came up against with Hangouts.
The headline software however, is the updated voice search, with Assistant replacing Google Now. Operated using the same ‘OK Google’ command, the company claim that Assistant will be at the forefront of search for the next 10 years.
Assistant really comes into its own, Google claims, with its Home voice controlled speaker. Home will converse with users, responding to voice commands for search and music, and access planners and personal information. “The long-term vision is for the assistant be available wherever you need it, not just on your phone. In your home, your car, wherever. For now, it’s just the new phone from Google and the Home,” says Assistant engineering director Gummi Hafsteinsson.
Finally Google unveiled the anticipated update to Cardboard, the basic 360 VR viewer. Going head to head with Samsung’s Gear VR, the Daydream Viewer comes bundled with a controller, and the lightweight fabric design looks to be an improvement on the Gear’s plastic body.