“And there’s no unsightly camera bump.” With that opening salvo by Google’s newly minted hardware chief Rick Osterloh, it was clear that the tech giant is positioning the new Pixel smartphone as an iPhone killer. It’s a giant step for a tech behemoth with limited experience in the field. Google never dabbles in hardware. There’s a reason for it. Hardware is, well, hard. It occasionally dipped its toes into the water but always with a partner. The Nexus smartphone. The Chromebooks. The defunct Google TV. The manufacturing and design of all of these products were handled by someone else; Google just provided its software expertise. Until now.

The Google Pixel

The Google Pixel is essentially a top-of-the-line Android smartphone without the “bloatware” that plagues other Android handsets. It has the quad-core Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, a USB Type-C port for charging, a 3.5mm headphone jack (hur hur) and the latest Nougat 7.1 operating system. The Pixel also has the highest-rated smartphone camera in the world, at least until the results for the iPhone 7 Plus are released. The commercial is also quite entertaining. Check it out below.

From the announcement, however, it’s clear that Google strongly believes that artificial intelligence is the next frontier. Pixel is the first phone with Google Assistant built in. “Whether you’re on your home screen or in any app, you can always ask your Assistant for information or help with tasks,” Brian Rakowski, the lead of the software management division for Pixel, says. It’s a massive step-up from Google Now, in the sense that it learns your behaviour and tendencies, predicts what you will like, and serves you entertainment and anything else you ask for accordingly. For example, if you ask the Assistant what the name of the durian structure along the Singapore River is, it’ll probably reply with Esplanade. Then, if you want to know the acts performing in the Esplanade, all you need to do is ask and the Assistant will give you a list of shows that are relevant to your interests. Encroaching into your privacy? Perhaps, but I sincerely believe that we live in an age when privacy is just lip service and our lives are better served by revealing some aspects of ourselves to our robot overlords.

It Just Works

Many smartphone makers have tried, and failed, to topple Apple from its lofty perch. And that’s not due to lack of trying. Most Android smartphones are packed to the gills with the latest technology and the best hardware. Yet the Cupertino giant trumps them time and time again. The reasons are simple. The iOS ecosystem is seamless and easy to use. Everything you do on your iPhone can be edited and transferred to your Macbook, your iPad and any other Apple product. It’s easy to use, operate and troubleshoot. Second, and probably the most important reason, Apple seduces you not with its physicality but with emotions and sweet words. The firm understands humans are irrational. To appeal to logic is to play tennis with a brick wall. It’ll never win. Of course, this strategy won’t work if the product itself is terrible but the current iteration of the iPhone is genuinely a solid smartphone.

On that end, Google Home is the company’s attempt to create an ecosystem for you, powered by Google Assistant. It acts as your digital personal butler and is the closest thing you can get to a real-life J.A.R.V.I.S. Google has also launched Daydream View, which works flawlessly with Pixel.

It’s quite clear that Pixel is Google’s attempt to muscle into the smartphone market and from there, tactically infiltrate into your home and your lives with its other offerings. After all, since you already have Pixel, why not purchase Home and Daydream View right? Now, for the bad news. Google Pixel is unavailable in Singapore at the moment unless you choose to  your way through freight forwarders. But I’m excited to see this super-fight between Google and Apple. Ultimately the consumer wins.

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Google Pixel: Can It Usurp the iPhone?

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