New Google phone comes with suite of 'smart' technology
Online software giant leverages huge collection of personal data to gain foothold in hardware market
Google has unveiled its new smartphone along with a suite of new hardware products that work together and make use of the company's personal assistant software.
At a product launch in San Francisco on Tuesday, the company officially announced the Pixel phone, the Daydream View virtual reality headset, the Chromecast Ultra streaming device and the Google Home smart speaker.
None of these devices are unique to Google, and the tech giant faces stiff competition from established companies like Apple and Sony.
But Google is gambling that the deep well of data it has accumulated about people through its search engine and online software puts it in the best position to leverage emerging technologies for individual consumers.
"Our goal is to build a personal Google for each and every user," CEO Sundar Pichai said. "We want to build a Google for each user."
The Pixel phone marks the company's most aggressive challenge yet to Apple and Samsung.
Google has released a series of its own phones, dubbed Nexus, since 2010. Those phones had limited distribution and were typically embraced by Google purists. Now, the company is casting aside the Nexus name as it aims to become an even more prominent player in the mobile market.
Described as "the first phone made by Google inside and out," it comes with a voice-activated, built-in personal assistant.
Assistant, Google's answer to Apple's Siri, listens to voice commands and performs tasks, such as playing music or making restaurant reservations. It links directly to a user's Google account so it can access things like email and calendars to provide a personalized experience.
Pixel is available for preorder in Canada for $899 or $1,149 for the larger version.
Google is ready to start selling its echo of Amazon's Echo.
Googe Home is an internet-connected speaker that uses Assistant to transform your abode into a smart home.
It will be able to perform many of the same tasks as Echo, including playing music and fielding questions about everything from the weather to what's playing at the local theatre.
But Google is betting that the knowledge that it has gained while running the world's dominant search engine will make the computer-powered assistant in Home smarter than Echo's Alexa, which has been on the market since 2014.
Home will also be able to control lights, appliances and other devices around the house, assuming you've installed "smart" versions of them.
And like most of Google's new hardware, Home will work closely with other Google devices. For example, if you have a Chromecast streaming device, you can use Home to control video on your TV.
Home will cost $129 US ($170 Cdn).
The company also gave us a look at its virtual reality headset Daydream View, which comes with a small remote and slate of exclusive content.
The new wireless motion controller for Daydream can function like a fishing rod, a steering wheel or a pointer to permit more sophisticated VR experiences.
The headset is paired with any Daydream-ready phone. For the time being, that exclusively means Pixel, but Google says more compatible phones will roll out.
Daydream is a challenge to more sophisticated systems from Facebook's Oculus business, HTC and Sony.
Google says 50 partners are bringing apps and games to Daydream, with more on the way. Google services such as photos, YouTube and Street View maps will also come to Daydream.
The Daydream View will hit shelves in November for $79 US ($104 Cdn).
Google is updating its Chromecast video-streaming device for watching Netflix and other online video on big screens.
The new device, Chromecast Ultra, will support a higher-resolution format called 4K and work in concert with Google Home.
Google is facing competition with low-end devices. Roku just announced a $30 Express model that's about the size of a finger, while Amazon just updated its $40 Fire TV Stick. Both of those devices come with a remote, making them suitable stand-alone gadgets. But neither streams in 4K.
The new Google Wi-Fi system will be modular — just add new components based on how your home and rooms are shaped. Software will help manage the various access points for you as you move around.
It will cost almost $130 ($171 Cdn) for the main device. A three-pack for larger homes will cost about $386 Cdn.
New devices could help Google keep its services front and centre in the battle for consumers' attention, said analyst Julie Ask at Forrester Research.
Unlike a new mobile app or other software, she noted, it can be an expensive gamble to build and ship new hardware products. "But if you're Google, you can't afford to stop placing bets."
With files from The Associated Press