Google(NEW YORK) — In a bid to take a bite out of Apple and send Amazon up the proverbial creek, Google Tuesday introduced new hardware that will directly compete with its rivals’ signature products.
With the introduction of a new phone and smart speaker, Google is taking on its Silicon Valley competitors and also playing catch-up.
Google, best known for its search and Android, is taking a big step into the hardware world — a place where until recently it had only a light footprint.
During a presentation in San Francisco, Google repeatedly said that in order to be competitive it must be in both the hardware and software businesses.
Having a foot in both worlds, Google officials suggested, allowed for greater innovation — namely in artificial intelligence(AI), which Google clearly believes is the next big evolution in our digital lives.
“We’re at a seminal moment for computer. If you step back and think about it, computing has had big shifts every 10 years or so,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai, before adding, “we’re evolving from a mobile first, to an AI-first world.”
“Your Own Google”
The company is officially debuting Google Assistant — its own intelligent personal assistant, which will compete with the likes of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
The virtual assistant will be available across multiple devices and will rely on voice recognition. It’s meant to provide easy access to both personal information — like contacts, calendar events and other data stored on your phone — and information on the web.
The Google Assistant is at the core of several devices that the company debuted Tuesday.
Of those, the most notable is its new phone.
Taking a direct shot at Apple’s newly-released iPhone 7, Google introduced Pixel, a smartphone that will have its software and hardware designed in-house at Google.
Pixel is hardly Google’s first foray into the smartphone market. It is, however, the first time that the company has handled the design of both the hardware and software behind a smartphone. Its previous Nexus phones were manufactured by other companies, but branded and sold by Google.
The new aluminum phone, available for order Tuesday, will come in 5-inch and 5.5-inch models. There are three colors: silver, black and a limited-edition blue.
Both sizes come in either 32-gigabyte or 128-gigabyte — far lower than the 128-gigabyte and 256-gigabyte offerings in Apple’s latest iteration of the iPhone.
The phone is sold exclusively through Verizon in the U.S., but will also be available for sale on Google’s website unlocked, meaning it can be used with other networks. It starts at $649.
Users can take advantage of the unlimited photo and video storage that Google is now offering through its cloud storage service.
In comparison, Apple customers receive limited storage on Apple’s iCloud storage service and must pay for higher quantities.
Google was quick to tout the camera on the new phone, which received a score of 89 from DxOMark, a camera review firm. The score puts it at the top of all smartphones that DxOMark reviewed.
By comparison, the iPhone 7 received a score of 86 on the 100-point scale.
Another feature that Google is promoting is the phone’s battery, which the company says can provide seven hours of battery life with only a 15-minute charge.
Finally, Google is offering a “quick switch adapter,” which it claims will make it easy to transfer contacts, videos, photos, music, as well as iMessages and SMS messages from an iPhone to a Pixel.
Echoing Amazon’s Echo
The Pixel wasn’t Google’s only big hardware announcement Tuesday.
Google is taking on Amazon’s popular Echo with the introduction of its own smart speaker, the Google Home.
Like the smartphone, it features Google Assistant. With Home, the Google Assistant is at the heart of all functionality.
The speaker, which has a design inspired by wine glasses and candles, promises to provide users with easy access to information and entertainment while also allowing them to control other smart home devices and complete small tasks, all through voice control.
More than one of the devices can be used in a home, according to Google, allowing users to stream the same song throughout the house. The company says that the speakers won’t be confused by voice activation as long as they are registered through the same account.
All new Google Home devices will come with a free six-month YouTube Red subscription.
The price starts at $129, and it is available now.
Google introduced a Wi-Fi router, which it is calling Google Wi-Fi.
The most notable feature? Multiple Google Wi-Fi devices can be used together to create coverage throughout your house. One device should cover a 1,500-square foot home, Google says.
The company also says the device is optimized for high-bandwidth activities like streaming movies and online gaming. It will include “Network Assist,” which Google says will make it easier to set up and manage a wireless connection.
Finally, the router will allow parents to “pause” their children’s internet connection through a companion smartphone app, providing downtime from the internet without having to unplug the router.
It is available in November for $129, or three routers can be bought for $299.
Daydreaming about Virtual Reality
Google also debuted Daydream View, a virtual reality headset and controller that will work with the Pixel and other phones to provide “high-quality, immersive VR,” the company says.
The headset, which is covered in fabric rather than hard plastic, will be available in November for $79.
Chromecast Goes Ultra
Finally, the company debuted its newest Chromecast device — the Chromecast Ultra.
Available in November for $69, it will allow streaming of 4K Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range video to a television while providing faster speeds as users navigate around the interface.
It also features a wired ethernet connection for environments where Wi-Fi connectivity may be limited.
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