Economy, Sci & Tech

Google Releasing Pixel Phones in San Francisco

Google Releasing Pixel Phones in San Francisco
Google Releasing Pixel Phones in San Francisco

Google is expected to unveil new smartphones at an event on October 4, the company’s latest effort to sell a Google-branded device and challenge Apple at the high end of the market.

Analysts predict the San Francisco event will also showcase other Google hardware initiatives, including a voice-controlled speaker system called Home to challenge’s Echo device, and a virtual reality headset.

The most eagerly expected offering is a pair of smartphones released under the Pixel brand, replacing the Nexus line. While most vendors other than Apple use Google’s Android operating system, the company has for years toyed with various approaches to building its own hardware without alienating manufacturers.

Google has sold Nexus phones since 2010, but the devices have gained little traction in a market dominated by Samsung Electronics.

Analysts attribute the lackluster sales to poor distribution, as the phones typically are not available in independent retailers. Google also owned the Motorola smartphone business briefly before selling it to Lenovo Group.

“Because its mobile software is available so widely, Google has struggled to distinguish its own devices,” said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research.

Google “wants to have this end-to-end experience, but it’s not clear that people really want that”, Dawson said.

The new Pixel phones are expected to cost more than $600, putting them at the high end of the market, where Apple is the leading player.

Dawson is more optimistic about the Home device—unveiled at the company’s developer conference this year—which works with home entertainment systems and responds to voice commands.

The device represents an important move in an intensifying battle between Google and other tech giants to establish the dominant “digital assistant”.

Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are vying for supremacy, as more people search the web and make purchases online through voice commands, which may eventually supplant keyboards and touchscreens as the primary means of controlling some digital devices.

“Although Amazon was first to market, Google can capture plenty of sales in the nascent category,” Dawson said.

But as with smartphones, distribution may pose a challenge.

“Amazon has the advantage of being able to put this on the homepage of the biggest e-commerce site in the world,” he said.


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