Google Pushes AI With Third-Generation Pixel Smartphones

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Google shows off Pixel 3 smartphones with AI-guided cameras, along with the Google Slate tablet and Home Hub screen-enabled smart speaker

Google is emphasising the artificial intelligence smarts of its third-generation Pixel smartphone, introduced at the Made By Google event in New York late on Tuesday.

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL launched along with other hardware including a smart video speaker and a Chrome OS-based tablet that Google said is designed to provide a full desktop experience.

The Pixel 3 devices feature slimmer bezels and larger screens than last year’s models, and add a “notch” or screen cutout to house their front-facing sensors, a design feature popularised by the iPhone X.

The devices feature 5.5-inch and 6.3-inch screens, and are available for pre-order immediately, with six months of YouTube Music, Google’s new music streaming service.

Image credit: Google

AI-powered camera

The Pixel 3 includes two front-facing cameras for “group selfie” shots. Google said the second camera means the Pixel captures 184 percent more of a scene than the iPhone XS.

The company teased the Pixel devices with its AI, saying the camera has been trained on pictures from Google Images to “know a good photo when it sees it”.

An AI-powered feature called Top Shot selects the best moment to take a picture, while a feature called Night Sight can, Google argues, take better low-light shots than the iPhone XS.

The devices come in three colours: Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink.

Pricing for the Pixel 3 starts at $799 (£608), with the Pixel 3 XL starting at $899.

The devices are to ship to US consumers on 18 October, with more countries to follow on 1 November.

Google also introduced a wireless charger for the phone called Pixel Stand, which is to sell for $79.

Image credit: Google
Image credit: Google

Pixel Slate

The Pixel Slate tablet is based on the same Chrome OS that powers Chromebooks, and can be used with a keypad/cover to provide laptop-like experience, Google said.

In that, it’s similar to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6, which launched last week.

“This Chrome OS device is both a powerful workstation at the office, and a home theater you can hold in your hands,” said Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of hardware, in a blog post.

At the event, Google played up the Pixel Slate’s quiet, backlit keypad and stylus, both of which are add-ons.

The Slate is priced starting at $599, with the cover priced at $199 and the Pixel Pen $99.

Image credit: Google

Home Hub

The third device in the new lineup is the Home Hub, a new addition to Google’s popular line of smart speakers that sports a screen.

Google noted that, unlike rivals from Amazon and Facebook, the new Home Hub doesn’t feature a built-in camera.

While this means it can’t make video calls, Google suggested users can feel more at ease with the device know it it isn’t watching them.

Facebook made a nod in the same privacy-minded direction by including a clip-on camera lens cover with its new Facebook Portal device.

Google said the screen can be used to view recipes hands-free and show music videos, as well as controlling the user’s smart home appliances.

“For life at home we designed Google Home Hub, which lets you hear and see the info you need, and manage your connected home from a single screen,” Osterloh wrote.

The Home Hub is priced starting at $149 and comes with six months of the YouTube Premium music and video streaming service.

The new mobile devices all feature a security system called Titan, which Google said secures the lock screen and strengthens disk encryption.

Image credit: Google

Gradual expansion

Google launched the Pixel 3 at 10 media events around the world, as it gradually expands the geographic distribution of the device to compete with the iPhone, whose latest edition launched in about 50 countries. The Pixel 2 range sold in six countries.

So far the Pixel range hasn’t neared any of the top sellers on sales, with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL devices taking less than 1 percent of the smartphone market, according to industry analysts.

Google is also expanding the availability of its popular Google Assistant virtual assistant, from six languages a year ago to 16 today.

The Google Home smart speakers have had more success than Pixel, with shipments competitive with those of Amazon’s Echo devices.

In May Google said 500 million Assistant-powered devices have shipped around the world, including speakers, phones and televisions.

Assistant is now paired with 5,000 household connected devices, up from 1,500 in January, Google said.

Image credit: Google

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