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Google unveils its new Pixel phones while making a dig at Apple

Google has produced its own Android-based phones for years under the “Nexus” brand. But on Tuesday, the company announced it would design its own smartphones, the Pixel and Pixel XL, which borrow their names from Google’s longstanding tablet and laptop products.

The Pixel and Pixel XL are the first-ever to come with Google Assistant built in, have unlimited cloud storage, and are compatible with the company’s new virtual reality headset, Daydream. Google also claims the camera on its new phones has “the shortest capture time on any mobile camera ever.”

Available for preorder today in black, blue and silver for $649 to start, the Pixel and Pixel XL sport 5-inch and 5.5-inch displays respectively, powered by Snapdragon 821 processors and 4GB of RAM. The Pixel and Pixel XL will be available from Verizon exclusively in the U.S.

Also on-board: 32GB or 128GB of internal storage, a 2770mAh battery for the Pixel and a 3450mAh battery for the Pixel XL with a polished aluminum case paired with a small glass pane on the back. There’s also a subtle wedge from top to bottom where the hand naturally grips it, supposedly to make it easier to hold. A 12-megapixel rear-facing camera with a feature called HDR+, enables the Pixel to capture significantly more light than other cameras, the company claims.

For those wondering, the Pixel and Pixel XL also sport the traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack, a longstanding feature on many smartphones that became controversial when Apple decided to omit it with the iPhone 7.

And there’s no unsightly camera bump,” added Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of hardware, a none-too-subtle dig at Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone line.

Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones will be available in three colors, black, blue and silver

Google also emphasized the Pixel’s software, which it built (and refined) from the ground up. Indeed, Osterloh highlighted five key points for the Pixel phones:

Google Assistant

When they launch, Pixel and Pixel XL will be the first smartphones to come with Google Assistant built in. When you touch and hold the home button, Google Assistant “jumps into action.” The A.I.-driven feature can bring up specific photos from the past and play whatever music you ask it to play. It even takes restaurant reservations with voice commands. 

That camera!

According to Google, the Pixel and Pixel XL rear camera score an 89 in DxOMark — the highest rating ever. Translation: These could very well be the best smartphone cameras on the market today, trumping even the iPhone. There’s also video stabilization on board, however there’s no optical image stabilization for still photos. 

Communications

Pixel users will be getting the latest Android updates directly from Google as soon as they become available. This is one of the biggest pain points with Android, and Google is stressing its lead in this category. Google has also built in 24-hour live phone support right into the Pixel’s software, so that a tech support operator can check out what’s on your screen and help you better. The Pixel comes with Google Duo preinstalled, if you’ve been jonesing for the company’s video chat app.

Unlimited cloud storage

Impressively, Google will also allow free unlimited storage for full-resolution images and videos shot with the Pixel. That’s much like the standard Google Photos backup ability, but takes off the size limit, even on 4K video shot with the new phone.

Virtual reality

The Pixel and Pixel XL are the first Daydream-compatible smartphones, which will work with the just-announced Daydream View headset. The Daydream View comes bundled with a tiny motion controller that is so precise you can even draw with it. When you’re done, the controller simply tucks inside the Daydream View itself for safe storage.


JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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