Google reveals Pixel phone that bakes in AI assistant, to let people chat with their handset

The Assistant is Google's version of Siri, and calls on all of the information that Google stores about its users

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 04 October 2016 17:20
Introducing Google's phone - Pixel

Google has unveiled its Pixel, a new phone that's meant to be a robot assistant for your whole life.

The first phone designed by Google on the inside and outside looks almost exactly the same as most other recent handsets – a silver and white rounded square, made of metal and glass. But the company hopes that it can stand apart by baking in its Assistant to the heart of the phone.

Google's Assistant works akin to Siri – it is opened by pressing a button and then talking to it. But it calls on all of the information that Google stores, and the compny claims that it is fast to understand what people are looking for and even faster to show them what they need.

The Assistant can show any information that people need. For instance, it can look at what's on screen when someone asks "How far to this restaurant?", and then call on Google's voice and picture recognition technology, as well as information from places like Google Maps, to show the answer to a user's question.

The company said that the phone calls on five different parts of Google's technology. That includes the Assistant, but also photography tools, storage options, communication apps and its entire suite of virtual reality technologies.

Google built the phone specifically for VR, it said, including adding sensors and other features. And it also released a new headset called Daydream View, the first headset ready for its Daydream platform that is meant to be more comfortable and customisable than other headsets.

The hardware does have some innovations, however. The new phone includes features like quick battery charging, which allows the phone to be charged up a substantial amount in just 15 minutes.

Not all of the features are new: the company has included the headphone jack, rather than dropping it like Apple. The company mocked its rival in ad during the event, joking that the 3.5mm headphone jack was the only thing not new in the phone.

The phone's camera is the best ever made, according to an industry watchdog consulted by Google.

The camera overlaps with the kind of internet services that Google offers. For instance, the phone comes with unlimited full-size storage on Google Photos.

Google's phone also automatically updates itself to the new operating system, as soon as it is released. That is significant for Android, since it can often be a long time until updates arrive on any specific phone – leaving them open to security issues and without new features.

If people do want to upgrade to the new phone, Google has built a new switching tool. That includes a special plug that attaches both phones, and software that allows it to pull everything like texts and settings across from the old phone to the new one.

In the US, the phone will be sold exclusively on Verizon, though it will be available unlocked too. It will be partnering with other providers around the world.

It is available for pre-order in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany and the UK today.

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