Google ups the ante? The state of smartphone competition

By Ewan Jones (SciTech Editor)

Google unveiled four new products at their ‘Made by Google’ event on October 9th: the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones, the Google Home Hub smart home assistant, and the Pixel Slate tablet. Whilst still receiving adoration from the many Google fans attending the event held in New York, the product releases were somewhat dampened by the consistent leaks in the weeks leading up to the event.

Some conspiracy theorists suspected Google of placing false information to increase interest in the event

A retailer in Hong Kong was found selling the Pixel 3 XL a week before it was officially launched, and to make things worse, a large number of leaks stemmed from a test-version Pixel 3 XL left in the back of a Lyft! So severe were the leaks that many conspiracy theorists suspected Google of deliberately placing false information online in order to increase interest in the event, however, this was disproved when all products revealed matched the leaked information exactly.

Google has been especially hit by leaks this year, with the recent Google + data dump that exposed the personal information of 500,000 users leading to the shutdown of the (admittedly seldom used) social network. These concerns with privacy may have influenced some of the design decisions for the new Google hardware, such as the lack of a camera in the ever-present Home Hub assistant.

Leaks aside, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL reveals stole the show at this event. Google is a company known mainly for its software, and its advent into hardware has been a challenge. Many people choose to own a Pixel phone because they get the latest software updates first; however, these phones have a new star feature: the camera.

The Pixel camera is arguably the best in the smartphone market right now

The Pixel camera is arguably the best in the smartphone market right now, and Google obviously knows this from the amount of time they spent advertising this fact at their event (multiple videos of famous photographers and normal people taking photos, and even a cheeky comparison with the iPhone X’s camera featured).

On a negative note, however, Pixel XL fans may have been disappointed by the size of the phone’s camera ‘notch’ in the top of the screen. When the leaks occurred, this was the one point that people almost unanimously disliked, complaining that it was too big. Also, whereas most phone companies are following the trend of reducing bezel size to allow for edge-to-edge screens, Google has made the odd decision to stick with a bottom-screen bezel.

In terms of price, Google is following in the footsteps of Apple by increasing prices from $650USD for the Pixel 2 to $800USD for the most recent phones. Whilst still cheaper than the ludicrously expensive iPhone X (does anyone ever worry about carrying a £999 device everywhere in our pockets?), prices were expected to be lower than this.

‘Flagship killers’ offer just as good specs for half the price

The largest smartphone manufacturers need to keep price in mind in the coming years, as so-called ‘flagship killers’ such as the Oneplus 6 offer just as good (sometimes better!) specs for only £429, less than half an iPhone X. Will brand name continue to keep customers happy when faced with these other, cheaper options?

Photograph: C.E Kent from Creative Commons via Flickr 

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