Google’s long-rumored Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, as well as its all-new Daydream View VR headset, were finally unveiled Oct. 4 after months of speculation, bringing new entries to both markets from the giant in online search.
The smartphones, which are available immediately for preorder, start at $649 for the Pixel phone, which has a 5-inch display and 32GB of onboard storage, or at $769 for a Pixel XL, which has a 5.5-inch display and 32GB of storage. A 128GB Pixel is $749, while a 128GB Pixel XL is $869.
The new Daydream View headset is priced at $79 and will arrive in November. Consumers who preorder and pay for their new Pixel smartphones will get a free Daydream View headset through a promotional code with their purchase, while supplies last, according to Google.
The smartphones are designed and engineered by Google and are being offered for sale through Verizon and Google.com.
The Pixel has a 5-inch full HD AMOLED display, which is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 4, a 2,770mAh battery and is 5.6 inches tall, 2.7 inches wide and 0.3 inches thick.
It’s larger stablemate, the Pixel XL, has a 5.5-inch quad HD AMOLED display, a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 cover, a 3,450mAh battery and is 6 inches long, 2.9 inches wide and 0.34 inches thick. The phones are the first Google devices to include the latest Google Assistant services built-in to assist consumers in their everyday lives.
Both phone models feature a metal unibody design with curved edges, a Snapdragon 821 MSM8996 quad-core processor, 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, a 12.3-megapixel auto-focus, rear main camera with an f/2.0 lens and an 8-megapixel front-facing, fixed-focus camera with an f/2.4 lens. Both handsets can capture and play 4K video as well as 1080p and 720p video. Both models also include a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor for device and user security, fast charging that can provide up to 7 hours of use from a 15-minute charge, a USB Type-C port, a 3.5mm headset jack, a single SIM receptacle and a single bottom-firing speaker. Also included is 24/7 technical support for the handsets through a preloaded app that gives tech support personnel the ability to examine the phone remotely after the owner consents to the assistance.
In addition, both handsets will include Google’s new Google Nougat operating system with automatic updates in the background and free unlimited storage of photos and videos at original quality and full resolution through Google Photos.
Buyers can also obtain their Pixel or Pixel XL handsets with a free SIM card that will work with Google’s Project Fi mobile phone services. A 2-year device protection plan is available for $99.
The handsets come in Quite Black or Very Silver colors in 32GB or 128GB versions, but only in a 32GB version in the other color choice, called Really Blue.
The phones also come with new transfer tools to help new owners move all of their photos, emails, contacts and other personal data to their new Pixel handset from their old smartphone.
The Pixel phones are also built to be fully compatible with the new Daydream View VR headset, giving users the ability to consume a wide variety of VR content that is being offered by Google and its partners.
The Daydream View VR Headset
Unlike competing VR headsets, the Daydream View is made using soft fabrics and materials that are comfortable on a wearer’s face, while also being up to 30 percent lighter than other viewers, according to Google. To connect a Pixel phone to the headset, the user opens the latch on the viewer, places their Pixel phone inside, shuts the hatch and the phone and headset communicate automatically to configure the devices.
Users will be able to see YouTube videos, Google Street View content, Google Play Movies and more at launch, with more than 50 partners bringing additional content before end of year and more on the way, according to Google.
The Daydream View headset can be worn over glasses and comes with a hand-operated controller that stores inside the device.
Additional Daydream-compatible smartphones will be announced by other companies in the future so that non-Pixel users can also use the viewer.
Daydream View will be available in the color Slate at launch in November, while Snow and Crimson colors will be available later in 2016.
Google Unveils Its Pixel Smartphones and Daydream View VR Headset
Analysts on the New Pixel Smartphones
Mark Hung, an analyst with Gartner, told eWEEK that his biggest surprise about the new Pixel phones is that Google “was only able to land Verizon as a carrier distributor. While the end of phone subsidies have lessened the importance of carrier distribution, they’re still an important channel to reach the consumer base.”
At the same time, Google is going up against some tough competition in the marketplace with its new phones, added Hung. “While the improved camera and unlimited storage for uncompressed 4K videos and photos will be an attraction to some people, by themselves they won’t be able to take significant share away from either Apple or Samsung, especially given the carrier distribution limitation.”
Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research, said the new handsets are a step up from Google’s previous Nexus phone offerings, but could face challenges in the market.
“The Pixel phones are clearly being positioned as peers to the iPhone, which the Nexus devices never were—even the pricing is identical,” Dawson said. “And yet in most respects Pixel won’t be any better than most other Android smartphones out there—rounded icons and faster software updates won’t be enough to offset the premium pricing, narrow carrier distribution, and consumers’ familiarity with Samsung and other existing vendors. Google is still fighting an uphill battle when it comes to mainstream adoption of its hardware beyond Chromecast, and there’s little here to suggest that this will change anytime soon.”