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article imageGoogle's new Pixel smartphones are first to be 'Made by Google'

By James Walker     Oct 4, 2016 in Technology
Google has officially announced the Pixel and Pixel XL, two new smartphones that have been almost entirely engineered in-house. The devices, extensively rumoured and leaked over the past few weeks, are designed to directly rival Apple's iPhone.
Google unveiled the phones at its "#madebygoogle" live event today. The company did not reveal much about the handsets that's not already known, however. The spate of reports from tipsters running up to the launch meant much of what Google showed off was already publicly accessible. Now the phones are official though, marking Google's first foray into the smartphone hardware business.
The Pixel comes in two versions, the 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL, in a similar fashion to Apple's iPhone. Google has gone all-out to rival Apple, something it's been hinting at for a while and looks to become more significant to its future in the coming years. The Pixel devices are Google's first steps on the road to gaining more control of the Android ecosystem and its own phones.
Google has signalled it wants to move to adopt Apple's model of tightly combining hardware and software in first-party products. Apple builds the iPhone and its iOS operating system entirely in-house. Google now operates on a very similar model.
The company conceptualised, designed, created and tested the Pixel and Pixel XL in-house. It then brought in Taiwanese smartphone brand HTC to actually build the finished handsets. HTC's involvement is limited to the assembly of the phones, a radical departure from the approach taken for previous Google-branded Nexus phones. Formerly, Google contracted manufacturers to build devices it could put its name on. Now, it is at the centre of the process.
In a report before the event today, Bloomberg explained how Google manages the inventory, carrier relationships, component sourcing, supply chain deals and distribution arrangements for the Pixel line. It also manufactures its own accessories for the phones.
The Pixel and Pixel XL are managed entirely by Google, with HTC assisting only in manufacturing and support. According to Google, the arrangement is no different to how Foxconn builds the iPhone for Apple. On the back, you'll find a "Made by Google" inscription, a clear take on Apple's famous "Designed by Apple in California."
The phones themselves have metal finishes and are available in silver, black and limited-edition blue colours. They are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM and up to 128GB of storage. The Pixel and Pixel XL are the first devices to support Google's Daydream mobile virtual reality platform and are capable of connecting wirelessly to Daydream View, its new VR headset. Google says the Pixel's battery will last you for up to seven hours and recharge in just 15 minutes, ideal when immersed in battery-intensive VR.
Pixel comes with its own Android launcher, the Pixel launcher. It runs atop Android 7.1 Nougat and includes a distinctive interface separated from the standard OS skin. There are rounded icons, a more polished user interface and integrated support for Google Assistant. The latter is Google's attempt to turn its search engine into a digital assistant, letting you ask Google for help wherever you are on your phone. It's accessible from the home screen by pulling out the "G" pull-tab or by long-pressing the home button.
Google has addressed a long-standing complaint with Nexus devices by ensuring the Pixel and Pixel XL are competent photography devices. They feature 12.3-megapixel cameras that can snap photos in "the blink of an eye." On the industry-leading DXO-Mark imaging test, the camera unit stored 89, the highest score ever awarded to a smartphone. It features video stabilisation tech and instantaneous HDR for more balanced colour and contrast in photos. To ensure customers have sufficient space to save their photos, Google will give all Pixel purchasers unlimited free Google Photos cloud storage.
In the U.S., the Pixel and Pixel XL will be exclusive to Verizon. Alternatively, they will be offered from the Google Store unlocked for $649. It will be compatible with the Google Fi mobile network and can be pre-ordered today in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany and Australia. Pre-orders in India will begin on October 13.
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