Date
27 May 2017
Rick Osterloh introduces the Pixel phone during a presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco. Photo: Reuters
Rick Osterloh introduces the Pixel phone during a presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco. Photo: Reuters

Google unwraps Pixel phone, virtual assistant

Google has unveiled a new smartphone and a virtual reality headset, challenging Apple Inc.’s iPhone at the high end of the US$400 billion global smartphone market.

Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent, made a string of announcements including the US$649 Pixel smartphone, a new Wi-Fi router and a voice-activated digital assistant for the living room called Home, Reuters reports.

It’s the clearest sign yet that Google intends to compete directly with Apple, Amazon.com Inc. and manufacturers of phones using its own Android mobile operating system to create a world of connected devices and services.

The virtual reality headset raises competition with Facebook Inc., owner of Oculus, while its Home device puts it squarely in the battle to produce a digital assistant that can react to voice commands to tie together products and forge a closer bond with the user.

Google is shifting to tighter control of its products after years of giving its software to mobile device makers which has turned Android into the most widely used smartphone system in the world.

Google executives boasted that the Pixel was developed in-house from start to finish, which gives it an in-built advantage in distributing Google’s many internet-based services.

The phone itself comes in two sizes, has a high-end camera and a screen with no buttons.

“Aside from the camera, the new Google Pixels are pretty undifferentiated compared to Samsung and iPhone seventh generation phones,” said industry analyst Patrick Moorhead.

Google said it would work exclusively with a single carrier in the United States, Verizon Communications, on the Pixel, echoing Apple’s agreement to launch the original iPhone with AT&T Inc 

That deal gave Apple unprecedented control over the look of the phone and how it worked.

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