Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Google Pixel + Allo makes for exciting possibilities, at a price

With the built-in AI-based assistant, Allo, Google's new phone Pixel truly raises the game, but is just as pricey as other flagships

Harichandan Arakali
Published: Oct 5, 2016 11:41:48 AM IST
Updated: Oct 27, 2016 02:12:45 PM IST
Google Pixel + Allo makes for exciting possibilities, at a price
Image: Beck Diefenbach / Reuters
Google launched its new smartphone Google Pixel yesterday and they will be available in India for booking starting October 13

The first unbidden thought that jumped into my head at the moment I saw Google Pixel’s first official image, was how much Apple has influenced smartphone design. Everything else about Google Pixel, the internet search giant’s own new smartphone, promises some original experiences never seen before.

Google launched its new smartphone Google Pixel yesterday and they will be available in India for booking starting October 13. They look beautiful, going by the official video of the launch, and they pack great hardware. They cost as much as other flagship phones as well. They will be available on Flipkart, Reliance Digital, Croma stores and others, and Google has set up 54 walk-in service centres in over 30 cities in India.

More on the hardware a bit later, but the original experiences claim I’m sticking my neck out on shouldn’t be a surprise. While others have access to great hardware too, Google Pixel showcases the company’s exciting and scary strengths in software — largely via Google Allo, the AI-based personal assistant Google released last month.

And the Pixel is the first smartphone to ship with Allo hardwired into it, along with Google’s latest Android version, Nougat. Allo offers a more-intuitive-as-you-go experience for both work and play, the more one uses it — just talk to it to do anything from setting reminders, making lists or searching for a restaurant, or the way to an unfamiliar meeting location — all without having to leave it.

The richer experience is of course on Android, but Allo works on iPhones too, but with fewer possibilities — say ‘set me a reminder,’ and it will only bring up search results on how to set reminders. It is still very useful, however, because the searches — including on Google Maps, for instance — still work very well within the iOS version too.

And one can message contacts who don’t even have the app on their phone. It will just send text messages, and their replies will pop back within Allo. Anyone can sign up to Allo by using their mobile number, just as in Whatsapp, which means one doesn’t even need a Google account. Having one, makes the experience richer is all.

I’ll go so far as to say Google Allo could be the first major threat to Whatsapp in this part of the world, where Android is the de-facto smartphone operating system and where Whatsapp is the most popular mobile messaging app. At a personal level, I’ve been using Allo for a bit over a week now, and Whatsapp feels dull and dreary and old.

Now, if you’re willing to shell out Rs 57,000 or more, the Pixel has top-of-the-range hardare: Aluminium unibody with polished glass on the back, with a finger print sensor, a 12.3MP primary camera, hi-definition AMOLED display (familiary to Samsung users), Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, USB Type-C and the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Pixel ships in two variants, one with a 5-inch screen and 2,770 mAh battery and the other with a 5.5-inch screen and 3,450 mAh battery. That apart, every software feature on the Pixel is available on either variant, and Google’s engineers promise many, including a camera which has the highest industry rating to date, features such as video stabilisation, and updates that load and install in the background.

The phones ship in two storage versions, 32GB and 128GB, and Google is offering unlimited storage on its cloud for photos and videos in their original form to all Pixel buyers. Finally, on Tuesday, Google also unveiled its attempt at a virtual reality headset, called Google Daydream. One can insert either the Pixel or any other compatible Android phone into it.