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Google launches Pixel 8, smartwatch with new AI feature

Alphabet’s Google on Wednesday (Oct 4) launched Pixel 8 smartphones and a new smartwatch that integrate its artificial intelligence (AI) technology more deeply into the company’s consumer gadgets.

Google’s flagship Pixel smartphone has a fraction of Apple’s iPhone sales, but it is designed to show how Android products push the limits of available technology. Pixels are popular with photography enthusiasts and consumers who prefer the Android gadgets without modifications by other phone makers.

Google beefed up the Pixel line up with its latest mobile processor, Tensor G3. The new Google custom chip has more AI and machine learning capabilities, enabling users to crunch more data on the device itself and in the cloud.

The AI features can help with photography, summarizing web pages and blocking out spam calls, executives said at Made by Google event in New York on Wednesday.

The higher-end Pixel 8 Pro features a Thermometer app to measure body temperature, subject to approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Starting prices are US$699 for the Pixel 8 and US$999 for the Pixel Pro 8, US$100 more than the previous generation models. They will be available from Oct 12.

“Google was clearly focused on driving the mobile AI message in today’s event and having AI on the device/client will be a big topic for the industry going forward,” said IDC analyst Ryan Reith.

“If supported by strong marketing, Google could drive higher market share with this lineup, specifically in the US.”

Last month, Apple launched a new series of iPhones that included a new titanium shell, a faster chip and improved video game playing abilities.

The biggest surprise with the iPhone 15 was that Apple did not raise prices, reflecting the global smartphone slump.

Google Pixel globally ranks 12th in terms of shipments, with a 0.9 per cent share, according to IDC.

The latest updates could make Pixel phones more attractive to holiday-season shoppers.

The United States is the largest market, accounting for roughly 39 per cent of Pixel’s worldwide shipments, followed by Japan at 29 per cent and the UK at 9 per cent, according to IDC.

Google also announced plans to add generative AI capabilities to its virtual assistant, allowing it to do things like help people plan a trip or catch up on emails and then ask follow-up questions.

The company launched Google Watch 2, an upgrade over the first smartwatch launched in October 2022, starting at US$349. It gets a digital crown and advanced health tracking features powered by AI.

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