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This Week's Chitter Chatter: Google Launches 5 Devices including Pixel Phone
Google held a 'Made by Google' event in San Francisco to launch not just a new range of phones called Pixel, but also four other devices.
The Nexus brand that Google has used before to promote a 'pure' form of it's Android operating system has been replaced by Pixel, which although completely designed by Google will still be manufactured by another company, in this case HTC.
Two versions of the phone were launched - Pixel and Pixel XL with a 5 and 5.5 inch screen respectively, very much like the Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which are Google's main targets with these phones.
The latest Android 7.1 Nougat is included and with a high speed processor and sleek design the phone sits alongside competitors like the iPhone 7 or Samsung S7.
However, Google hi-lighted a couple of features that set the Pixel apart. The camera was said to be highest independently-rated smartphone camera available and comes with 12.3 MP and 8MP for the front camera.
An interesting point of difference is that it will come with the new Google Assistant, which is an upgraded version of Google Now and OK Google voice commands from previous Android devices. It will be more like a smart chatbot that can answer queries conversationally and help the user with information on the go. This will be exclusive at first to the Pixel phones, the new Google Home and within the Allo messaging app.
Google Home was also unveiled at the event. It is a smart speaker similar to Amazon's Echo, which was recently launched in the UK. Google Home will tap into the same artificial intelligence that powers Google Assistant on the Pixel phone. You can speak questions to the device and it will answer them, play music through Spotify, Google Play Music and Pandora and listen to the radio via Tunein. Google Home comes in multiple colours and will also work with smart home devices, so you can for example control your lights or heating via voice commands.
The launch of the Daydream View VR headset put Google up against some key competitors in the emerging Virtual Reality space, such as Facebook's Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive and Samsung Gear headsets. Google's model is a vastly upgraded product compared to the simple Google Cardboard. Rather than cardboard, it is made of soft, breathable fabric, comes with a controller and you need to slip your smartphone into it. You can control StreetView, Google Photos and YouTube videos from the app, plus watch 360 degree VR videos. Google aims to have 50 apps and games that work with the viewer by the end of 2016, so this could be a very affordable option for experiencing the exciting new world of VR.
Google showed off a new version of it's Chromecast TV streaming device called the Chromecast Ultra, which was said to be 1.8 times faster than the previous model. It offers 4K content, HDR and Dolby Vision with ethernet support and automatically optimises your content for the best picture quality possible.
The final reveal was Google WiFi, a home networking device aiming to optimise the speed of home broadband.
Google has taken control of both the hardware and software for it's new Pixel phone hoping to replicate the success of Apple with the iPhone and taken big steps into new categories such as the smart home and Virtual Reality with Daydream.