Google unveiled an entire, interconnected hardware ecosystem: two phones, an intelligent speaker, a VR headset, a Wi-Fi router, and a media-streaming dongle, at its launch event in San Francisco on 4 October.
The most important parts of that ecosystem — the Pixel phone and Google Home speaker — exist to be the ideal vessels for the Google Assistant. The rest of the products fill out Google’s ecosystem, but are also enhanced by Google’s cloud-based intelligence.
In making its own hardware, Google is for the first time pitting itself directly against Apple in a sort of Google phone versus iPhone tussle; it is also throwing down the gauntlet to Samsung and other premium Android phone makers. In opting to take greater control over the manufacture of its hardware, Google is following the simple dictum: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
The two Google branded smartphones, Pixel and Pixel XL, launched at the event marks a departure from past efforts; up to now, Google’s Nexus phones were made by a variety of manufacturers that sold them under their brands. The new phones, though they are manufactured by HTC, have Google’s imprimatur visible all over them.
Google's Pixel phones come in two models. The chief differences between them are the screen and battery sizes. The Pixel has a 12.7cm (5inch) AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (441 pixels per inch), while the Pixel XL has a 5.5-inch AMOLED with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels (534 ppi). And, while the Pixel boasts a 2,770mAh battery, the Pixel XL has a larger 3,450mAh. Both batteries have a quick-charge feature that gives the phone seven hours of runtime on a 15-minute charge.
The remaining features of both phones remain much the same, including a quad-core Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 12.3 megapixel rear-facing cameras with fast f/2.0 lenses. Both employ large 1.5 micron pixels for greater resolution and provide support for 4K video. The front-facing cameras on both phones are 8 MP with an f/2.4 aperture and support for HD video.
The rear-facing cameras have already received a score of 89, the highest rating for a smartphone, from mobile camera rating outfit DxOMark. The reviewers at DxOMark were impressed by its image quality, especially its high level of detail with relatively low levels of noise for every tested lighting condition. “It also renders accurate exposures with very good contrast and white balance, as well as fast autofocus,” they wrote in their evaluation of the Pixel’s camera.
Those who pick up the Pixel will also get their hands on free unlimited storage on Google Photos with photos shot at their original resolution, while the new Quick Switch Adapter hardware makes it easier to transfer files from an old Android device or an iPhone.
The rear of the device is a combination of glass and metal with a fingerprint reader smack dab in the center, along with an antenna band along the bottom and Google’s new “G” logo along the bottom. Interestingly, the company has also built customer support directly into the Pixel, complete with screen sharing. Pricing for the Pixel model starts at US$649 for the standard memory of 32GB, with the option for a voluminous 128GB of storage also on offer. Customers can preorder the Pixel now in the United States, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany.