Google has entered the mobile arena

On October the 4th, Google held a big hardware event. There were quite a few important announcements, including Google Home (a speaker that responds to voice commands), Google WiFi (a WiFi system for your home), Google Chromecast Ultra, Daydream and VR headsets and last, but by no means least, the new Google Pixel (5' screen) and Pixel XL (5.5' screen) smartphones.

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Phew! Such a lot of stuff that I could talk about. Let’s start with those phones.

Google have of course been heavily invested in the mobile phone market for quite some time. They own Android, which accounts for roughly 86 per cent of the global market, but traditionally they haven’t made any hardware themselves. Even their Nexus range of devices were built in partnership with different manufacturers.

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That is all changing with the new Pixel range of phones. Apple have long claimed they can get more from the iPhone, because the hardware and software are designed to work together. Now Google can claim the same thing too and at first glance, it shows. The new phones are top spec devices aimed to compete with Apple’s and Samsung’s flagship phones.

Here is a brief overview of the new phones. They have the best camera of any smartphone ever, according to independent analysis by DXOMark that scored the new camera at 89% The phones are able to charge very fast, gaining 7 hours of usage out of just 15 minutes of charging. They come with 4 GBs of RAM, a whizzy fast processor and up to 128 GBs of storage, which will help if you want to shoot 4K video. Oh and Google Photos gives you unlimited storage for all of your photos and videos.

Oh and they have a 3.5mm audio jack. Ahem.

A running theme throughout the event on the 4th was AI (Artificial Intelligence). Google Assistant, which previewed in the new app Allo, is baked into the new phones and Google Home. It is possible to have entire conversations with Google Assistant and after watching the demonstrations (for both the phones and Google Home) it is hard not to be impressed.

Imagine having a text chat with someone, who suggests you go to the cinema. Not only will Google Assistant be able to find you the times and dates of the film, but it will also be able to book tickets for the film and the restaurant nearby that you mentioned.

In the case of Google Home, there was a really good demonstration where the speaker asked it to find a song by an artist that appeared in a film. Google Assistant found the correct song and played it. The speaker had the choice of listening to it normally, or casting the video on YouTube via Chromecast. No button pressing involved.

While Google may have advertised the event as a hardware event, a very large part of it was dedicated to AI. The technology battleground of the future will not determined by hardware, but by AI.