Google releases its first ever “inside out” Android flagship smartphone, powered by AI Assistant and Daydream VR
Google says its new Pixel smartphone is the first ever handset to be designed by the company “inside out” as it seeks to combine its software innovations with optimised hardware.
The search giant has previously partnered with third party manufacturers for flagship ‘Nexus’ smartphones but this is the first time it has taken control of the entire project.
At a launch event, Google spoke at length about the need for this intersection of hardware and software as communications become more complex.
“Phones are the most important device we own,” said Rick Osterleh, who heads up Google’s hardware division. “They are literally most people’s lifelines to the Internet and to each other. For us its always meant the best software and hardware built by us.”
The Pixel is the first device to be powered by the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Google Assistant, has unlimited cloud storage for photos, and the “best smartphone camera ever” receiving a score of 89 from independent benchmarkers DxOMark.
This, Google attributes to advanced camera technology behind the 12.3-megapixel rear facing lens, including faster image processing and a speedier camera application
Power comes courtesy of a quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor. There are also two scree size options: the Pixel has a five-inch display and the Pixel XL is 5.5 inches.
Like the Nexus range, the Pixel will receive all the latest security updates from Google and software upgrades. The latter will install in the background and take effect the next time the device is switched on.
The Google Assistant will eventually be available to other smartphone manufacturers via an SDK, but for now it is the first and only handset to support the AI software. .
The Pixel is also the first handset to be compatible with Google’s Daydream virtual reality (VR) platform. Google also showed off its first headset and more smartphones will work with Daydream in the near-future.
Cary Bevor, who heads up the VR team at Google, said the Daydream View had been designed to be different from other headsets.
“We saw issues with comfort and [complexity] and everything looked the same,” he said. “We have a different take.”
Bevor said latency, accuracy and comfortability were the principal factors in its design, as was ease of use. It will come in three colours so it’s more personable.
“We looked at what people wear so we made it from fabric. Things you’d find in clothing. It’s also lightweight, 30 percent lighter.”
Crispin Lowery, who heads up Google’s EMEA partnerships, told the audience at a launch event in London that the new focus on hardware did not mean that Google was any less committed to the Android ecosystem.
Google has however chosen two launch partners for the UK, EE and Carphone Warehouse.
“We already have a strong partnership with EE,” said Lowe, who noted it would help with business adoption. “As the biggest and fastest network in the UK I can’t think of a better launch partner. Carphone Warehouse will allow it to be available on the widest range of tariffs and networks.”
The Pixel, Pixel XL and Daydream VR are all available to pre-order immediately. The Pixel costs from £519 (32GB) without a contact, the Pixel XL £719 and both will debut on 20 October. The Daydream VR will arrive in November.
“There’s every reason to believe the Pixel could be a genuine iPhone killer, in a market that appears to be growing tired of the incumbents,” commented Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.
“A battery that charges seven hours in just 15 minutes might not seem as cool as an intelligent voice-activated assistant, but this combination of core functionality and bleeding-edge features is highly likely to win people over. Never underestimate the importance of battery life.
“Google’s biggest challenge will be differentiating in an incredibly competitive space, where Android fans could easily default to Samsung.”