The focus at the event was on Google Assistant first and foremost, then the new hardware that will bring it to consumers
Following a steady flow of leaked images and product specifications, Google unveiled its new Pixel smartphone series. The new hardware, alongside several other products that were showcased like Amazon Echo-competitor Google Home, was presented as a vehicle for further development and marketing of Google Assistant to Android users at Google’s annual hardware event in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Indeed, the Assistant was central to every presentation. For the Pixel, software management team leader Brian Rakowski told attendees that the phone was designed to be “simple and smart.” He demonstrated its improved voice command by planning a night out with his wife, Lisa, on it, with the Assistant transcribing a set of texts and requests for fitting in dinner and a show.
During the demonstration, the Assistant only made one slight voice recognition error, transcribing “want to” as “went to,” while providing all other details it was queried about correctly.
These included photo slideshows, OpenTable reservations, driving time to a theater, a music sample on YouTube, and event showtimes.
The Pixel (5 inch) and Pixel XL (5.5 inch) follow Google’s long-running Nexus series that debuted in 2010. The Nexus was designed as a base model in collaboration with multiple companies for different versions, including LG and Samsung. Its main appeal for users has been with regards to streamlining Android updates, something the Pixel will continue.
Distribution channels for North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific
Pixel was widely anticipated in advance due to a series of leaks. British website Carphone Warehouse disclosed some of the first information about the Pixels earlier in the year, as did did several North American carriers and consumer websites before Google intervened to stem the leaks. One of these carriers, Rogers, actually broke the news just ahead of the conference that the Pixel would be available to ship as early as October 20 in Canada.
The Pixel will come with Android 7.1 Nougat OS, Bluetooth 4.2, 4GB RAM, and preloaded Google Assistant. Google also says that its 12.3 megapixel camera is the “best in class” mobile camera for a smartphone to date according to DxOMark Mobile, slightly exceeding its earlier entries and also the iPhone 6 and 7. The Assistant can support WhatsApp and Viber among other messaging apps, as well as the Duo video app.
In the U.S., Pixel will be available through Verizon and at Best Buy. In Canada, Telus, Rogers, Wireless Wave (Glentel), and Bell will be the distributors. EE Limited and Dixons Carphone will handle the UK market, and Deutsche Telekom will manage its dissemination in Germany. Telstra and JB Hi-Fi are the Australian distributors. In India, pre-sales will begin October 13 through Flipkart, Reliance Digital, and Chroma. It will also be available through the Google Store and Project Fi.
It will be sold in three colors: Quite Black, Really Blue, and Very Silver.
Mobile VR experience
Pixel will also support Google’s new mobile virtual reality experience, Daydream VR, selling in November for $79. Like the Samsung Gear and HTC Vive, the headset (made of fabric to save weight) has wireless connectively, so the phone needs only be inserted into a slot to function. It also has an auto-alignment system. Partnered content includes properties from J. K. Rowling, the New York Times Company, and CCP Games.
Google advertises it will be a “stellar place for games” and also is compatible with Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, and Google Play content. Although the demos looked promising, further consumer feedback will tell if the mobile VR experience can match up with desktop quality.