Google takes aim at Apple with new phones and devices

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Google takes aim at Apple with new phones and devices
Google's new Pixel phones.

Telstra gets fast LTE variant of Pixel phone.

Google has debuted a refreshed range of hardware, including two new smartphones that no longer carry the Nexus moniker, virtual reality goggles, a voice-controlled Home digital assistant device, and a wi-fi router.

Two new phones, the 5in Pixel and 5.5in Pixel XL, are available for US$649 (A$852) and US$769 (A$1010) in the US on pre-order.

Australian pricing starts at A$1079 for the 5in model and A$1269 for the 5.5in Pixel XL. Pre-orders are also avaliable in Australia from today.

The phones are made by Taiwan's HTC. They are encased in metal, with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 coated screens, and are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 system-on-a-chip with a quad-core processor, with 4GB of memory and 32 or 128GB of storage.

While the Pixel phones will offer LTE Category 9 support for most telcos with 450 Mbps maximum downloads and 50 Mbps uploads, Telstra will get the faster Cat 11 variant with up to 600/75 Mbps speeds, and triple carrier aggregation support.

It's not clear from Google's published specifications if the Pixel devices support voice over LTE without fall-back to 3G for cellular calling.

Like Apple, Google is betting big on photography and videography this year. The Pixel phones have cameras with 12.3 megapixel Sony Exmoor R IMX378 sensors that use 1.55 micrometre photodiodes, phase and laser detection autofocus, and wide-aperture f/2.0 lenses for good low-light performance.

The cameras can shoot 1080p high-definition video at 30, 60 and 120 frames per second, and 4K at 30 fps. 

Also sporting a Sony sensor, the front cameras on the pixel phones have 8 MP resolution, and f/2.4 lenses with fixed focus.

The 5in Pixel has a 2770 milli-Ampere hour capacity battery that Google says will provide up to 26 hours talk time on 3G, 13 hours of LTE data usage, and 13 hours of video playback.

The Pixel XL has a larger 3450 mAh battery that provides 32 hours 3G talk time, and 14 hours LTE data usage and video watching. Both devices have fast charging via USB-C that gives 7 hours of use from just 15 minutes of being plugged in.

The two devices have fingerprint sensors for authentication, and also boast the Google Assistant.

Home assistant competes with Amazon Echo

Google is also taking on online retail giant Amazon with the Home digital assistant device.

It can be bought for U$129 (A$170) at the Google Store, Walmart and Best Buy in the US. Google did not detail Australian availability.

Like the Amazon Alexa device, the voice-controlled Home can play music, act on commands, and control smart devices as well as conduct internet searches for information.

Google Home contains a hi-fi speaker, and connects wirelessly using wi-fi to home networks.

Google also pre-announced a virtual reality headset, the Daydream View, as a companion device for compatible smartphones like the Pixel devices.

The Daydream View is not yet available to purchase, with Google asking potential customers to join a waitlist.

Also waitlisted is a new wi-fi router that Google says promises simpler configuration even with multiple access points, and improved streaming of video and audio across several devices.

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