SAN FRANCISCO (WWJ/AP) – Google introduced a new line of smartphones in its most aggressive challenge yet to Apple and Samsung Tuesday.
The Pixel and Pixel XL phones will be sold through Verizon and unlocked versions through Google’s Play Store. The phone will be supported by Google’s wireless program Project Fi.
A promo video for the phone’s launch takes a shot at Apple’s iPhone 7 not including a headphone jack.
The new phones will come in two screen sizes — 5 inches and 5.5 inches. The smaller one will cost about $650, with orders starting Tuesday; the larger version will go for about $750.
The phones will have Google’s virtual assistant and artificial intelligence service, Google Assistant, built in. The company says computing is becoming more dependent on AI, not just on being mobile.
Google, of course, already provides the Android system software that powers more than 80 percent of the world’s smartphones.
The new push pits Google against a familiar foe in Apple and its iPhone. But it also poses a new threat to Samsung, the biggest maker of Android phones.
The phones are manufactured by HTC while Google is taking a page from Apple’s playbook by making a bigger push to build its own hardware.
It’s About Upgraded AI
CEO Sundar Pichai says computing is transitioning to an artificial-intelligence-first world, just as it moved to a mobile-first world just a few years ago.
Pichai says, “Our goal is to build a personal Google for each and every user. We want to build a Google for each user.”
Google services along those lines include Google Assistant, software that’s designed to answer questions and retrieve information, conversation-style. Google Assistant made its debut in a chat app called Allo a few weeks ago. It will also be part of the upcoming Home smart speaker. Google is expected to announce more details at the event.
The event — held at the former power plant for a chocolate factory — started with video showing characters from the HBO show “Silicon Valley” bantering about expectations.
In addition to the Pixel phones, Google will ramp up its consumer electronics strategy Tuesday as it’s expected to announce new gadgets including Google Home an internet-connected personal-assistant similar to Amazon’s Echo speaker. Analysts and industry blogs say a virtual-reality headset and a home router could also be on tap.
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