Google has made its first independent foray into the smartphone market with Pixel, a device that could rival Apple’s iPhone in terms of capability.
The debut marks Google’s entrance as a product leader into a $400 billion smartphone market, where other companies, especially Apple, have established loyal customer bases and improved products through several models of trial and error. Entering the scene in 2016 is a risky launch for Google, but could provide the company with a way to ensure continued use of its web services and future projects.
"It is early days but we've committed to this mission," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said. "But it's equally important to get it into the hands of our users, and that's what today is about."
The company unveiled both the Pixel and its slightly larger counterpart the Pixel XL Tuesday, which will sell for between $649 and $869. The device is the first phone Google has created entirely in-house, a departure from the strategy taken with Nexus, a phone that resulted out of collaboration between Google and outside smartphone makers.
With a voice-commanded assistant, the world’s fastest camera, and unlimited cloud photography storage, some of the features not only mimic, but threaten to exceed those of the iPhone.
Of course, that was part of Google’s plan. In April, the company reorganized its hardware groups under a single division so that designers and engineers behind Google Glass, Chromecast, and Pixel would all be on the same page. The move creates a more unified cross-product strategy, something Apple has seen a great deal of success in building.
The phones will include a feature called Google Assistant, a voice-activated tool similar to Apple’s Siri. Built by a company that’s made a name for itself synonymous with searching, the feature remembers what users search and offers suggestions based on the criteria. As for camera and video, Google says Pixel’s is the best ever implemented on a smartphone, with the ability to capture photos faster than even the iPhone 7.
Because Google is retaining full control of the devices’ software, it will likely provide major updates frequently, and monthly updates to security features.
In addition to making a product that iPhone users might find appealing, Google will also rollout an app to facilitate the transition between devices for customers, allowing them to transfer contacts, photos, music, videos, messages, and calendar reminders between an old iPhone device and a new Google one. The Pixel phones will also come with a cable that makes the transfer even faster and less prone to wireless connection errors.
Even with competing features, it’s hard to say if Google can surpass Apple. iPhone users have proved extremely loyal to the company, sticking by the products even when only 28 percent of customers saw the iPhone as the best product on the market. Whether or not the buzz around Pixel can compete with the latest iPhone rollouts waits to be seen.