Google Inc. today unveiled a smartphone and detailed features on already announced products, such as Google Home, the Google Assistant and virtual reality platform Daydream.
Google unveiled Google Home at its I/O event in May, and today rolled out new features for the small structure that is similar to Amazon.com Inc.’s Echo device, in that it is an Internet-connected device controlled by a consumer’s voice. The speaker is integrated with other smart-home devices from Philips, Samsung and Nest, a separate division of Google parent Alphabet Inc.
The $129 device is powered by the Google Assistant, which consumers speak to in order to receive information, such as traffic or weather, and to command it to perform tasks, such as play music, order an Uber and add products to a shopping list on her smartphone. Google Assistant answers questions based on Google’s search results.
Google is allowing developers to integrate their own commands for the Google Assistant through Actions on Google. Actions can be direct, such as “turn on the bedroom lights” or conversational, such as “make a reservation at The Cheesecake Factory.” The assistant then takes the user through the steps of deciding the day, time and number of people to complete the reservation.
“The launch of Google Home with Google Assistant boosts Google’s play as a virtual assistant and is a natural extension of Google’s path toward becoming the agent that sits between brands and their customers,” says Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at research firm Forrester Research Inc.. “The ‘holy grail’ of becoming a consumer’s virtual assistant will be hard for Google to obtain, but holds unprecedented business value if Google achieves this goal.”
While the Echo’s focus is to get shoppers to buy products from Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, Google Home is more akin to an almost always on, voice-activated computer that has access to Google’s search engine and a consumer’s apps. A consumer activates the device by saying, “OK Google.” She can turn it off if she doesn’t want the device to always be listening for a command.
While Google Home is often referred to as an Amazon Echo competitor, Google’s vast reach—with Google Maps, Google Calendar and Google Play—gives it access to much more information about a consumer than Amazon has access to, says Fatemeh Khatibloo, principal analyst, on consumer privacy and identity, at Forrester. This makes Google Home different than Amazon Echo, and more difficult to manage, he says.
U.S. consumers can preorder a Google Home device today from Google and it will ship to their homes and be available at retailers Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 12 in the Top 500), Wal-Mart Stores. Inc. (No. 4) and Target Corp. (No. 22) on Nov. 4.
Google also unveiled a new phone, called Pixel, which U.S. consumers can preorder on Google. The $649 smartphone has two screen sizes: 5-inch and 5.5-inches. Google boasted about Pixel’s sophisticated camera, built-in Google Assistant, virtual reality capabilities and texting app. The phone also can generate seven hours of battery life from a 15-minute charge, says Sabrina Ellis, of the Pixel product management team.
Google also announced that its virtual reality headset, Daydream View, will be available for $79 in November. The headset is made of fabric and is soft to the touch.
To support the increasing number of devices connecting to the internet, Google also announced Google Wi-Fi, which is a router that offers better coverage, it says. Google will take preorders of the $129 device in November and it will ship in December.Favorite