Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google (GOOG) launched Pixel – an Android smartphone designed entirely by the company at an event in San Francisco this morning. Rick Osterloh, head of Google’s hardware division, said the phone represented the “perfect example of best of Google smarts combining to make a great user experience.”  

Presenters at Google’s event highlighted five features of the phone. The first one was its integration with Google Assistant, a virtual assistant that organizes information and performs various tasks for users. To do this, it assembles contextually relevant information from apps already loaded on the phone. As demonstration, Brian Rakowski, senior vice president of product management at the company, booked a restaurant table using OpenTable.  

The phone has a state of the art camera that features HDR Plus technology, that minimizes shutter lag and sharpens colors and SmartBurst, which takes photos in short bursts and selects clearest and sharpest from among the lot, and video stabilization capabilities. According to the Mountain View company, rating firm DXOMark Mobile has given the Pixel’s camera a rating of 89, its highest ever rating for a smartphone. The phone comes equipped free unlimited photos and video storage on Google Cloud. In addition to this, the phone is also VR-ready. 

This means that users will be able to play virtual reality content on their phone by using Daydream View, Google’s VR device. The latter is a new lightweight headset device made of micro fibers. Google also unveiled a slew of partnerships with media companies, including Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and Warner Bros for VR content. According to Andrea McAllister, head of partnerships, Google will have 50 partners for VR before the end of this year. (See also: The Business Of Google.) 

The phone will retail for $649 and is available in three colors. It is available in select geographies including the USA, the UK and Australia, starting today. It will be available in India on October 13. In the US, the company has tied up exclusively with Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ).    

In the run-up to the event, speculation was rife that the company would release two smartphones – Pixel and Pixel XL – to compete with Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Pixel mark’s Google’s first foray into designing Android phones. Up until now, the company has let OEMs design and sell Android phones. Google’s move is a sign that it is getting serious about hardware and intends to enter the home automation market. 


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