Google announced its latest Pixel 3 smartphones as well as other Google-made gadgets at its annual hardware event in New York early Wednesday (Oct 10) morning Singapore time.
Both the Pixel 3 XL and the Pixel 3 will be available in 13 countries, including Singapore, from Nov 1. Google did not reveal local pricing, though the Pixel 3 starts at US$799 (S$1,105) in the United States while the Pixel 3 XL starts at US$899 (S$1,244).
Last year, Google offered the higher-end Pixel 2 XL smartphone in Singapore for the first time, in an exclusive tie-up with Singtel. It was also available online from the Singapore Google Store at $1,398.
There were few surprises at the official reveal. The Pixel 3 smartphones had been the subject of numerous leaks, which turned out to be mostly accurate, in the lead up to the launch.
Like last year's Pixel 2 devices, the new Pixel 3 smartphones have a dual-tone design and come in two screen sizes - 5.5 inches and 6.3 inches. This time round, Google has added a third pale pink option to the usual white and black colours.
The larger 6.3 inch Pixel 3 XL has a display cutout, or screen notch, like many smartphones this year. The Pixel 3's smaller 5.5 inch screen does not have a notch, though the top and bottom bezels are relatively thick. The screens on both models use Oled technology that is also used for high-end smartphones from Apple and Samsung.
Both models are identical when it comes to features and hardware. Notably, they have a single 12.2 megapixel rear camera, compared to other new smartphones, which often have two, sometimes even three cameras.
Instead of adding more cameras, Google appears to be relying on its software and the dedicated image-processing chip (dubbed the Pixel Visual Core) in the Pixel 3 devices to produce good-looking photos to match its rivals.
Google touts a partnership with celebrated American portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz using the Pixel 3 to take photos.
New camera software features include Top Shot, which shoots multiple photos in burst mode and uses machine learning to pick the best picture. For instance, it is intelligent enough not to pick photos featuring human subjects with closed eyes.
The Super Res Zoom feature shoots multiple shots and merges them to produce shots with better zoom than digital zoom.
There is also a new low-light mode called Night Sight that Google says is better than the Apple iPhone XS. This mode will be available for the Pixel 3 devices and other Pixel phones.
Google has also added a second front-facing camera to the Pixel 3 that can take ultra-wide selfies.
A Photobooth feature detects that a human subject is smiling and it will take a photo automatically without the user having to press the shutter button.
"The camera has always been the talking point for the Pixel series and there will be strong expectations around its camera capabilities, especially when there are more smartphones with dual cameras in the premium segment," Mr Tarun Pathak, associate director at market research firm Counterpoint Technology, told The Straits Times.
Ms Cynthia Duan, senior analyst at Euromonitor International, said that launching the Pixel 3 alongside the Pixel 3 XL in Singapore "allows Google to appeal to a much wider customer base".
"Apple adopted a similar strategy for its iPhone range - three models with different screen sizes and price points to cater to different consumer segments," she added.
New to the Pixel is wireless charging, which is enabled by the Pixel 3's all-glass back. Google is also launching a US$79 (S$119 in the Singapore Google Store) wireless charging stand accessory dubbed Pixel Stand along with this feature. Placing the Pixel 3 on this stand turns it into a smart display that shows personalised information from Google Assistant.
Existing Pixel 2 features like Active Edge, which lets users summon the Google Assistant by squeezing the sides of the phone, and front-facing stereo speakers, have been retained.
The Pixel 3 smartphones run Google's latest Android 9 Pie mobile operating system, with new features like digital well-being and a gesture-based navigation system.
To protect your data and other information on the phone, the Pixel 3 smartphone has a dedicated Titan Security chip for security applications, like securing the lock screen.
Powering them is the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, along with 4GB of system memory. There is no microSD card slot for expandable memory. They come with either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage.
GOOGLE'S OTHER HARDWARE UPDATES
In addition to the Pixel 3 smartphones, Google also announced the Pixel Slate, a tablet, that like the Microsoft Surface devices, can function like a laptop by attaching its removable back-lit keyboard cover accessory. It also has a stylus for taking notes.
Google says the Pixel Slate is excellent for watching videos - its screen offers bright colours and fast response rates and it also has dual front-firing speakers. It has 8 megapixel front and rear cameras that support portrait mode.
The Pixel Slate runs the same Chrome OS platform as Google's Chromebook computers and has Google Assistant built-in. Like newer Chromebooks, the tablet can run Android apps from the Google Play Store.
Prices for the slate start at US$599 (S$829). The keyboard costs US$199 (S$275) and the stylus is priced at US$99 (S$137).
It will be available later this year in the US, Canada and Britain.
Also revealed: the Google Home Hub, a smart display with Google Assistant built-in. It is similar to other Google Assistant-powered smart displays in the market from the likes of Lenovo and LG. But unlike other competitors like the Amazon Echo Show or the just-announced Facebook Portal, the Home Hub does not have a camera, so privacy-minded users might feel more comfortable about having it in their homes.
The Home Hub's screen shows useful information like the time, weather and photos. A feature called Ambient EQ automatically tweaks the brightness and colour temperature of the display - it can even turn off the screen at night.
It can play videos from YouTube, display images from Google Photos and stream music from Spotify. A new Home View dashboard lets users conveniently control compatible smart home devices like lights and cameras with a simple tap on the Home Hub's display or with their voices.
Priced at US$149 (S$206), the Home Hub will be available from Oct 22 in stores in the US, Britain and Australia.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.