San Francisco: Google today unveiled its new ‘Pixel’ brand of phones, geared up with Google Assistant and virtual reality capabilities, as it looks to challenge Apple in the premium smartphone market.
The two phones — Pixel and Pixel XL — will be available in India, priced at Rs 57,000 onwards, in 32GB and 128GB versions. The eagerly awaited smartphones replace the existing Nexus line.
The devices will be put up for pre-order from October 13 in India and will be sold by the end of October. The handsets would be available through channels like Flipkart, Reliance Retail, Croma and Vijay Sales in India.
India is among the first six countries where Pixel is being launched. “Hardware isn’t a new area for Google but we are now taking steps to showcase the very best of Google across a family of devices designed and built by us. This is a natural step and we are in it for the long haul,” Google SVP Hardware Rick Osterloh said at an event here.
Building hardware and software together would let the company take full advantage of capabilities like its Google Assistant, harnessing its expertise in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
While most handset vendors, other than Apple, use Google’s Android operating system, the company has made various approaches to building its own hardware.
It sold Nexus phones from 2010 with the devices being made by various vendors like HTC, Huawei, LG and Motorola.
Pixel would be the first phone to ship with Google Assistant built in and the latest operating system, Android 7.1 Nougat. The devices will get software and security updates as soon as they are available, directly from Google.
Google has also made the update process easier, with the download and installation happening in the background, so users no longer have to wait for the phone to update. Also, unlike the Nexus range, the Pixel phones do not sport the branding of the handset vendor.
The company has also unveiled a new VR headset, priced at USD 79 that will be available from November. Google is partnering a number of companies to increase immersive content available to users across the world.
India is one of the fastest growing smartphone markets globally. According to IDC, smartphone market in India grew 17.1 per cent sequentially to 27.5 million units in April-June quarter of 2016. The move to launch Pixel in India among the first few countries is similar to the strategy adopted by Apple.
Apple will sell the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in India from October 7, a month after the device was unveiled in the US. The latest version, which would be available through Flipkart, will be priced Rs 60,000 onwards.
Devices by both Apple and Google will compete in the premium category, which industry experts estimate to be about 26 per cent of the Indian handset market. Other prominent players in the premium segment (Rs 20,000 onwards) include Samsung, Sony and LG.
The segment is estimated to be growing at 22 per cent, higher than the overall smartphone segment that is growing at about 17 per cent. Google has also unveiled other hardware products including a new Chromecast, Google Wi-Fi (USD 129 owards) and Google Home.