What's Google's Plan With New 'Pixel' Phones?

When is a pixel more than just a pixel? When we're talking Google's latest entrant into the smartphone space, of course. Unveiled at a special event on Tuesday, September 4, the Pixel and Pixel XL are impressive gadgets.

Both are powered by the newest Snapdragon 821 processor and run on a specialized version of Google's Android software, including support for Google’s new Daydream virtual-reality platform.

Unlike its Nexus phones, Google is taking all the credit for Pixel’s concept and design, even though the phone are technically built by HTC. “The lineup features the first phone made by Google inside and out," Brian Rakowski, VP of product management at the search giant, notes in a blog post.

Other design features include rounded edges, two-and-a-half dimensional Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the front display and back glass to accent an aerospace grade aluminum body. The glass on the back also features Pixel Imprint, Google’s fingerprint sensor, which can be swiped to access one’s notifications.

Pixel is the first phone that comes fully integrated with Google’s Siri-like voice-activated assistant.

Among other impressive feats, the phone features a battery that lasts up to seven hours, but only takes about 15 minutes to charge. The smaller 5-inch Pixel starts at $649, while an XL with maximum storage will set you back $869. Both can be preordered.
Regardless of how well the new Pixels are received, don’t expect Google to turn into a hardware powerhouse, however.

“Google is not turning into a hardware business,” Thomas Husson, VP and principal analyst, at Forrester Research, said earlier this week.

Then, what the search giant’s strategy? “Google wants to showcase that it will continue to be a relevant platform to access information on whatever connected device consumers use moving forward,” according to Husson.

And -- surprise, surprise -- search remains key to Google’s relevancy, Husson believes. “Search is increasingly taking place in many more places, via many more devices and through new interfaces -- with a growing number of voice and visual requests.”

“To stay relevant for marketers in the long run, The Google Assistant is likely to be the driving force behind Google’s hardware moves,” Husson adds.

“The end-game for Google is to embed its intelligent agent to power conversations into multiple vertically integrated services like Mail, Search or Maps and into multiple devices like the new Google Home or the new Pixel smartphones.”

This column was previously published in Moblog on October 4, 2016.

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