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Google launches new phones and other gadgets in hardware push

Ethan Baron, The Mercury News on

Published in Science & Technology News

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google on Wednesday continued its push into hardware and its battle for market share against Apple, Amazon and Samsung with the release of new phones, virtual-assistance devices, a computer, a standalone camera and headphones.

The suite of products represents integration of artificial intelligence, hardware and software, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.

"The rate at which we are seeing progress with AI is amazing, which is why we are really excited about combining it with hardware and software to bring it together for our users," Pichai said.

After launching its first house-made phone, the Pixel, exactly a year ago, Google on Wednesday announced two new versions, the Pixel 2 with a 5-inch screen, starting at $649, and the Pixel 2 XL with a 6-inch screen, starting at $849. Available for pre-order now, the devices are scheduled to ship and hit stores Oct. 19. Following Apple's lead, the new Pixels, like the newer iPhones, lack a headphone jack -- they come with an adapter for plugging in headphones.

And a little over a year after introducing the Google Home virtual-assistance device, the Mountain View search giant on Wednesday launched two new virtual assistants. The Google Home Mini is a small round device costing $49 that can be pre-ordered now and is to ship and be available in stores Oct. 19. The other assistance device is the music-focused $399 Google Home Max, a much larger gadget with two large bass speakers and dual tweeters, scheduled to hit the market in December.

Google also announced a new laptop, the Pixelbook, a slim, light computer with a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Starting at $999 and now available for pre-order, the computer will arrive in stores Oct. 31. To go with the Pixelbook, Google is selling a $99 Pixelbook Pen, which can be used to highlight portions of photos, for example, to bring up information on what's depicted.

While the company highlighted the features of the camera on the new Pixel 2, it also announced its first standalone camera. The Google Clip, attached to an object and aimed at a scene, uses artificial intelligence to identify the best moments and take photos and short videos. Google said the device, priced at $249, was "coming soon."

Rounding out the new offerings were touch-controlled Pixel Bud earphones, for $159, available for pre-order now and scheduled to become available in November.

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