Google unveils next-generation Pixel smartphones

Google's next-generation Pixel smartphones, unveiled today, borrow from Apple's playbook as the company takes on its rival in the high end of the smartphone market.

New phones will take better photos than iPhone, Google promises

The second generation of Google's Pixel phones, unveiled Wednesday, feature larger, brighter screens and a souped-up camera. (Made by Google/Twitter)

​Google is borrowing from Apple's playbook as it takes on its rival in the high end of the smartphone market. 

The second generation of Google's Pixel phones unveiled Wednesday feature larger, brighter screens that take up more of the phone's front, changes that Apple is also making with its iPhone X scheduled to be released next month. 

Both the 5-inch Pixel and 6-inch Pixel XL will also get rid of the headphone jack — as Apple did with the iPhone last year — and will work with new Pixel Buds wireless headphones, which nonetheless will have a short cord so they can be draped around the neck. The new phones also feature built-in stereo speakers.

Pixel Buds can be used to listen to music and phone calls and to translate spoken language in real time, working with translation software built into the new phones. The translation feature will also be made available in an update to last year's Pixel models.

Google also souped up its already highly rated camera on the Pixel, boasting that it will take even better photos than the iPhone. 

The phones will be available to pre-order starting October 4 from Rogers, Bell and Telus, as well as Best Buy, Walmart and other retailers. Pixel 2 starts at $899 and Pixel 2 XL starts at $1,159.

Hands-free AI camera

Separately, Google introduced a hands-free camera that will automatically take photos and video. The small, square Google Clips can be attached to a stationary object so it can capture images of everything within its range of view. It will  rely on artificial intelligence to determine the best times to record video or snap a short motion photo lasting several seconds. 

"Clips looks for stable, clear shots of people you know," Google says on a blog post about the device. "You can help the camera learn who is important to you."

Google's hands-free camera, called Google Clips, will rely on artificial intelligence to determine the best times to snap a photo or record video. (Made by Google/Twitter)

Google is promising that privacy controls built into Clips will give the camera's users complete control over which images they want to transfer to another device or share with someone else. Clips is expected to be available in stores in December.

Home assistant in 3 sizes

Google also introduced different sizes of its internet-connected speaker to compete against similar devices from Amazon and Apple. 

The Home Mini is a doughnut-sized speaker covered in fabric with the same features as those in the standard Google Home device, a cylindrical speaker that Google rolled out last year in response to Amazon's Echo. 

The Home Max is a rectangular speaker with superior acoustics for playing music, mimicking Apple's HomePod. 

Both new speakers are due out in December. 

Google introduced different sizes of its internet-connected speaker, including the doughnut-sized Google Home Mini. (Made by Google/Twitter)

Google's voice-activated digital assistant will serve as the brains for all the speakers, just as Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri run their competing devices. 

All three technology companies are trying to establish their assistants as prescient concierges that understand people's  needs and desires to help them better manage their homes and lives. 

Google is counting on the knowledge it has accumulated through its dominant search engine to make its assistant more intelligent than either Alexa or Siri.