| Alphabet shows off new smartphones, Home speakers and Clips camera for holiday shopping season|
Alphabet Inc. introduced new Pixel smartphones, Home smart speakers and a new clip-on camera called Clips at a launch event in San Francisco on Wednesday, as it looks to challenge Apple Inc. and other hardware makers in the holiday shopping season (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/pixel-launch-will-test-google-hardware-strategy-and-apple-rivalry-2017-10-02).
Google (GOOGL) (GOOGL) stressed that its software will be the key difference between its products and competitors from companies like Apple (AAPL) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) Google especially focused on the Google Assistant, its artificial-intelligence-powered voice-controlled service similar to Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri.
Here's what you need to know:
New Pixel smartphones (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/google-launches-new-pixel-2-smartphones-2017-10-04): Google introduced two new Pixel smartphones, the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. Executives on stage played up the use of Google Assistant, which can be activated by squeezing the phone, and Google Photos capabilities including Lens, as well as virtual- and augmented-reality capabilities. The phones--available in three colors, "Just Black," "Clearly White" and "Kinda Blue"--are available for preorder immediately in the U.S. and five other countries, with the smaller version starting at $649 and the larger version starting at $849; for comparison, Apple's new iPhone 8 starts at $699, the larger iPhone 8 Plus starts at $799, and the iPhone X, when it goes on sale, will start at $999. Alphabet will keep Verizon Communications Inc. as the exclusive wireless-carrier partner for the phone, while also selling the phones at Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY) stores and unlocked versions through its own online store. Purchases come with a code for a free Google Home Mini speaker and unlimited photo and video storage on Google Photos.
Read also: Everything Apple announced at its iPhone event (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/everything-apple-announced-at-its-iphone-event-2017-09-12)
New Home speakers (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/google-launches-new-home-smart-speakers-including-high-end-apple-rival-2017-10-04): The Google Home Mini is a smaller version of the Google Home speaker that Alphabet began selling last year, and will rival the smaller form factor Amazon has introduced for its Echo speaker, the Echo Dot. Google also introduced a new high-end smart speaker, the Google Home Max, that focused on sound quality for music and could challenge the Sonos series of speakers as well as Apple's HomePod, which launches in December. The Google Home Max will cost $399, $50 more than Apple's HomePod, and come with a free year's subscription to Google's YouTube Red streaming-music service. The Google Home Mini will cost $49 and come in three colors: "chalk," "coral" and "coal." The Google Home Mini will be available in stores Oct. 19, while the Max will offer preorders beginning Nov. 13.
Google Pixel Buds: New wireless headphones from Google are expected to rival Apple's Bluetooth-powered AirPods, but with a key difference that Google demonstrated onstage Tuesday. In a demo, Google showed that the headphones can be used for instant translation for a variety of languages, with the user speaking her native language and an English translation provided from the phone's speakers. Responses in English were picked up by the phone and translated into the native language through the headphones. The Pixel Buds come in the same three colors as the Pixel phone and cost $159; preorders begin immediately and the headphones will be available in November.
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Google Clips: Google showed off a new clip-on camera that can take photo and video remotely and synchronizes what it captures instantly with a connected phone through an app. Google said the camera was launching "soon," and would work with the Pixel, Samsung (005930.SE) S7 and S8 phones as well as iPhone 6 and up. GoPro Inc.(GPRO) stock suffered immediately after Google introduced the camera (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gopro-stock-falls-as-google-introduces-new-clip-on-camera-2017-10-04), as Clips will be an option for some who would buy GoPro's cameras and will be priced cheaper than the action cameras GoPro sells, at $249.
Pixelbook and Pixelbook Pen: Google showed off a new high-end Chromebook convertible laptop that can also function as a tablet, as well as a stylus called the Pixelbook Pen. The Pixelbook has Intel Corp. i5 and i7 processors and can run Android apps; Google announced that it is working with Snap Inc. (SNAP) on a new version of the Snapchat app that takes advantage of the form factor. The Pixelbook starts at $999 and the Pen costs an additional $99, with preorders starting today.
Daydream View: Google also redesigned the virtual-reality headset that works with the Pixel smartphone, after introducing the original alongside the first Pixel smartphone last year. Google said the new version has better lenses that increase the image clarity and field of vision. The $99 device will come in three colors, "Fog," "Charcoal" and "Coral."
Alphabet stock did not seem affected by the event, after many of the product details leaked early. Class A shares fell 0.5% and Class C shares declined 0.6% on the day. Alphabet's Class A shares have gained 22% this year, outpacing the S&P 500 index , which has gained 13.2% in 2017. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 14.7% in 2017.
-Jeremy C. Owens; 415-439-6400; AskN