I-PHONE'S RIVAL: GOOGLE PIXEL

Google is looking to add the long list of phone competitors looking to dethrone the I-Phone.
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Google is looking to add the long list of phone competitors looking to dethrone the I-Phone.
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IT SEEMS LIKE only yesterday that Google was just a software company. Search and web apps, Android and Chrome. The industry giant’s first moves into hardware were small; it first worked with partners like Samsung and LG to build phones, tablets, and Chromebooks, then timidly branched out into creating its own designs. Well, Google isn’t timid about hardware any longer. In a 100-minute event on Tuesday, the company unveiled an entire line of products made not by hardware partners, but by Google’s own robust in-house product teams. And connecting all of the pieces together, of course, is Google’s speech-controlled, AI-powered Assistant. Here’s everything the company unveiled.  

Pixel and Pixel XL Phones

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With aluminum frames, glass backs, and no camera protrusions, Google’s first Pixel-branded phones are pretty slick. What’s more important is what’s on the inside: An unprecedented amount of AI, a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, Daydream-ready VR status, and one hell of a smartphone camera (more on that next). The 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL are available for preorder today at $649 and up in the US. You can buy them straight from Google, or you can walk into a Verizon store and pick one up too.  

That Camera Tho!

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Spec-wise, the Pixels’ cameras look decent: 12-megapixel sensors, f/2.0 lenses, and handy modes for HDR stills and burst shooting. But according to DxO Mark, the sum of all those parts is actually the best phone camera of all time. With a rating of 89, it leapfrogged excellent shooters like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and iPhone 7 to land at the top of the mobile rankings. The 4K video mode’s gyroscope-based stabilization also looks great, and you get unlimited storage of your full-res shots and videos on Google Photos.  

Daydream View Headset

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Google VP of VR Clay Bavor says this new headset helps make VR simpler, friendlier, and more accessible. Softer, too! Made of flexible, breathable microfiber, Google’s googles look more like sweatpants than a VR headset. They’re designed to fit comfortably over glasses, and there’s no wire required to sync up your phone. Oh, and the simple Daydream Controller stores inside the headset, too. It’ll be available for $79 in slate gray in November, with red and white versions coming later.  

New Daydream VR Toys

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The Daydream platform will also offer plenty of new VR stuff to get lost in. There will be aFantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them VR experience from the Harry Potter universe in which you’ll get to use the Daydream Controller as a magic wand. There’s a new Starchart VR app for exploring space, and a new Gunjack 2spaceship game for fighting in it. You’ll be able to watch movies in a private virtual theater in the Netflix, HBO, and Hulu apps, and there’s even a VR version of Google Street View.

Google Home

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The cute little Amazon Echo competitor goes on sale for $129 today and ships on November 4. Google spent a lot of time talking about all the things the built-in Google Assistant can do, like play music from YouTube or Spotify, queue up streaming Netflix or Hulu videos, and answer your spoken questions. The company also trumpeted the design—it is very nice, with a touch-sensitive panel on top and swappable bases that come in a selection of colors and finishes.  

New 4K Chromecast

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As you’d expect, the new Chromecast Ultra now supports streaming videos in 4K resolution. But there are a few surprises with Google’s latest dongle, and they’re great: The new streamer supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR video, and there’s an Ethernet port to handle the heavier load of data. Google Play Movies will start offering 4K content next month, joining Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube as supported 4K services. Priced at $69, the new Chromecast drops in November.  

Google Assistant Everywhere

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The main thread running through all of today’s announcements is the Google Assistant. The voice-activated helper is the next big push for Google, and the company demonstrated how it’s applying all of its machine learning knowledge to make the Assistant smarter and more useful. “It helps find the stuff in your own world,” according to CEO Sundar Pichai, via voice searches for your schedule, photos, travel plans, movie listings, and dinner reservations. That’s also a new name, Assistant with a capital A. No more OK Google or Google Now; it’s just Assistant.  

Google Wi-Fi

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Looks like last year’s OnHub router was just the start. Google Wi-Fi is a new home networking product. With several access points to blanket the home, the modular and expandable Wi-Fi hardware system lets you add units to increase coverage. (If it sounds and looks like Eero, that’s because it’s very similar.) Google’s Network Assist manages and optimizes network automatically, and transitions your devices from access point to access point as you wander around. There are new ways to manually manage usage, too, like the ability to pause Wi-Fi during dinner or throttle your kids’ usage. It’ll cost $129 for a single pack, or $299 for a 3-pack. Preorders start in November, and the units ship in December.