New model a challenge to Apple, Samsung

For much of the last decade, Apple and Samsung have dominated sales of smartphones. So why would anyone bother trying to sell a new phone?

That hasn’t dissuaded Google. The company on Tuesday unveiled new versions of its Pixel smartphone, which is a high-end challenger to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

Similar to the latest iPhones and Samsung phones, the new Pixel 3 phones, which will become available Thursday, have glass bodies to support wireless power charging.

Yet the screens are smaller than those of Pixel’s competitors: The $799 model has a 5.5-inch screen, while the $899 Pixel 3 XL has a 6.3-inch screen. For comparison, Apple’s new iPhone screens range from 5.8 to 6.5 inches diagonally, and the Samsung Galaxy screens measure 5.8 to 6.4 inches.

The new Pixels also have a feature to make it easier to take good photos. The tool, Top Shot, captures a series of images when someone takes a photo; Google uses algorithms to recommend the best photo among the shots.

The new Pixels also include a call-screening feature to fend off robocalls. When a call comes in from an unfamiliar number, the Pixel owner can tap a button to screen the call. An automated message will ask the caller to state his or her name and purpose for calling. It’s one of the first solutions from a device maker to combat robocalls.


Smart speaker response to Amazon, Microsoft

Google on Tuesday also introduced a smart speaker with a built-in display and a laptop that doubles as a tablet, in response to products from Amazon and Microsoft.

Joining a trend of smart speakers incorporating displays, Google’s newest Home speaker has a built-in 7-inch screen. The Google Home Hub will go on sale Oct. 22. Similar to the Amazon Echo, the Home Hub responds to voice commands. People summon it by saying “Hey, Google” before asking a question or speaking a command.

People can use the Home Hub’s screen to watch videos and control smart home devices like security cameras. Notably, the Home Hub, unlike Amazon’s smart screen products, lacks a camera for videoconferencing. Google said it had made that decision partly because of privacy concerns inside the home.