Google just announced a surprising shift in the way its mobile hardware business operates.
After weeks of rumors, the Internet giant unveiled its new Pixel smartphones at a media event in San Francisco on Tuesday. The devices, which will run on the company’s latest Android Nougat operating system, are the first smartphones Google has designed and engineered itself. The devices will be manufactured by HTC, but they’re branded with Google’s own logo.
Google (GOOGL) has been offering customers “Nexus” smartphones for years. Previously, those devices have launched in the fall, run on Google’s latest operating system, and generally been the Android-based handsets against which all other Android smartphones have been compared. While the Nexus smartphones sound similar to the new Pixel line, all of the Nexus devices were designed and engineered by third-party companies like HTC, Huawei, and others.
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The Pixel, however, is Google’s first foray into competing with the likes of Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF), which also design and engineer their own smartphones.
Perhaps most importantly, it is the first Android phone line to come with Google’s voice-based helper, called Assistant, built in. Google Assistant is similar to Apple’s virtual personal assistant Siri, and uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to handle requests and other information.
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On the component side, the Google Pixel line comes in the customer’s choice of 5- and 5.5-inch screens. The larger display features a higher Quad HD resolution, compared to 1080p on the smaller version. The Pixel also sports an aluminum finish with a fingerprint sensor on the back.
Inside, users will find a Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 821 processor. It also comes with what Google says, “is the best smartphone camera ever made,” and supports Google’s cloud-based storage. Google says all photos and videos can be stored online for free in full resolution.
Pixel will be available through Verizon (VZ), and will also be available in an unlocked version. It starts at $649, or $27 per month, on the Google Store in the U.S., and comes in a trio of color options: silver, black, and blue.
The Google-developed Pixel is available for pre-order starting today.