Google, looking to up the ante against Apple’s iPhone, announced its new line of Pixel 3 smartphones Tuesday featuring AI-powered assistants, a wireless charger option and enhanced camera features — plus an exclusive deal to feature Marvel Studios’ characters in AR selfies.
The internet giant made the announcement amid a slate of new products at its Made by Google 2018 event in New York, coming after a string of extensive leaks about the Pixel 3 in the weeks leading up to the official unveiling.
The two new Android phones, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL, feature slightly larger screens than the prior second-generation models. The Pixel 3 has a 5.5-inch screen, while the 3XL features a 6.3-inch display as well as a notch at the top of the phone to allow for a larger screen surface area. Pixel 3 is priced starting at $799 and the 3XL starts at $899, both with 64 GB of storage; Google is offering those who buy the new phones before the end of the year six months of free YouTube Music Premium.
Along with the new Pixel 3 phones, there’s a new $79 wireless charging stand, dubbed Pixel Stand. Pixel 3 users also will receive unlimited storage in Google Photos — in their original resolution — through Jan. 2022.
The Pixel 3 models will start shipping Oct. 18. In the U.S., Verizon Wireless will continue to be the exclusive carrier for Pixel phones, which run the Android 9 Pie operating system. (Unlocked versions are available from Google Store.) The Pixel 3 and 3XL come in three colors: “just black,” “clearly white,” and the lavender-ish “not pink.” Both feature dual front-facing cameras for wide-angle selfies and a single rear-facing camera.
The power of Pixel 3 and the company’s other new products comes through “the intersection of AI, software and hardware,” Google SVP of hardware Rick Osterloh said at the launch event. “It’s about helping you get real things done every day.”
New AI-powered features of Pixel 3 include the built-in Google Lens, which can scan and translate text, find similar styles of clothing, or identify popular plants and animals — by pointing the camera at whatever you’re interested in. Gmail’s Smart Compose, now available for mobile on Pixel 3, suggests phrases in when you’re composing emails, while the phones’ Gboard built-in keyboard will recommend GIFs, stickers and other additions.
Also, the version of Google Assistant that’s integrated with Pixel 3 includes two new features. First is a call-screening feature that can identify telemarketing calls and lets you mark them as spam or let you query a caller (and respond) via text about why they’re calling. The other is Duplex, which uses text-to-speech and voice recognition to call a restaurant to book a reservation; it will initially be available next month to Pixel 3 users in New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay Area.
With the Pixel 3’s Playground augmented-reality feature, users can add superheroes, animated stickers and captions to photos, selfies and videos. In a pact with Disney’s Marvel Studios, the phones will exclusively feature characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe — reacting to each other and to you. Coming later this year, Playground will let you “sharpen your dance skills” with moves from Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover.
Watch Iron Man jump into the frame of a Pixel 3 selfie:
Among the Pixel 3’s new camera features are Top Shot, which captures alternate shots in HDR+, then uses AI to recommend the best one (e.g., identifying photos where everyone is smiling, with eyes open, and facing the camera); and Super Res Zoom, a computational photography technique that produces sharp details when you zoom.
Google also announced a partnership with famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, who will travel across the U.S. and shoot pictures using the Pixel 3 — the first time she has officially teamed with any camera. In addition, Condé Nast used the Pixel 3 to shoot the covers of the November issues of Allure, Architectural Digest, Bon Appetit, Condé Nast Traveler, Glamour, GQ and W.
In addition, Google announced Digital Wellbeing, a suite of tools built into Pixel 3, which includes a dashboard to show usage; the ability to set time limits on specific apps; and a “Shhh” feature that sets the phone on do-not-disturb mode.
Osterloh emphasized security and privacy features of the company’s new products, coming a day after Google disclosed a vulnerability in the Google+ that may have compromised upwards of 500,000 user accounts and announced that it is shutting down Google+. He touted the company’s “simple, powerful ways to protect your devices” with a “closed-loop of data” for across Google’s ecosystem.
Google also announced Pixel Slate, a $599 new convertible tablet that runs Chrome OS, and the new Home Hub smart display, priced at $149. The company’s new third-generation Chromecast (which wasn’t actually featured on-stage at the event) adds multiroom audio streaming and support for 1080p HD at up to 60 frames per second.