Internet giant Google’s newly-appointed India-born chief executive Sundar Pichai took to the stage on Tuesday to launch two new smartphones, streaming gadgets and a new Android operating system (OS) to compete with rivals in the mobility space.
In an event on Tuesday that was streamed and watched across the globe, it also introduced upgrades to two apps – Google Play Music and Google Photos.
Before announcing the latest releases – two smartphones Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, second generation Chromecast, an audio Chromecast and a new 10.2-inch tablet named Google Pixel C, Pichai said: “It was great receiving the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Silicon Valley”.
Modi made a two-day trip to the West Coast where he met chief executives and founders of several top technology companies during his five-day US visit.
According to Google, the company has added 400 million new users to the Android ecosystem in one year. “Previously we had one billion 30-day period active users but now we have 1.4 billion 30-day active users,” Pichai said.
“With people in emerging economies moving to smartphones especially with our Android One initiative that offers high-quality yet affordable smartphones, we are on route to meet the target of getting the next billion users online,” he said.
He also said that more Chromebooks were being adopted in the US schools. “Nearly 30,000 Choromebooks were activated in the month of September alone. Our ‘Android for Work’ is also picking up with 10,000 firms already adapting it partially or completely,” he said.
The company’s latest iteration of the Android OS – Marshmallow – was also introduced on Tuesday. Google, which had first announced Android 6.0 Marshmallow at its I/O developer conference earlier this year, said that the new OS will be available to users on Nexus devices.
Although, the new version of Android will look similar, the company has made a number of tweaks to its mobile operating system in order to make using Android phones easier. Also there is a new smart battery-saving mode called ‘Doze’ mode that will put the device into sleep when it’s left unattended for a long time.
The newly launched smartphones, Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X – priced at $499 and $379 respectively, will come with Type-C USB, fingerprint sensor, large 1.55-micron pixels camera sensor and will run the latest Android operating system Marshmallow.
“There’s also a new fingerprint sensor called Nexus Imprint which will also open up fingerprint recognition to the entire app ecosystem,” Google said.
The company also announced a new “Nexus Protect programme” for $89 that would provide two years of coverage for both mechanical problems and accidental damage. Both the phones will be available for pre-order in select countries, including US, Britain, Japan and Ireland starting Tuesday.
The new Pixel C 10.2-inch tablet, which comes with a magnetic keyboard, will also run on Marshmallow. The magnetic keyboard, which will be available as an accessory for $149, connects to the tablet via Bluetooth.
Google said that the keyboard can go without charge for two months. Interestingly, the keyboard which works as a front cover for the tablet charges from its battery.
Earlier, Apple had launched a 13-inch tablet with a keyboard and a stylus to compete with other existing tablets in the market – especially the Microsoft Surface which claims to give laptop-like productivity on the go.
The chief executive also launched two new Chromecast streaming gadgets — one for streaming video and photos to a TV, and another one for streaming music to any audio entertainment hub or standard speakers.
The second generation video Chromecast, which has nearly sold over 20 million devices globally, has undergone a design change to look like a Carrom striker with the HDMI cable sticking out from one end.
The new streaming device comes with three Wi-Fi antennas supporting the newer dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac version, which Google claims, will provide a “more robust, high quality streaming experience for less buffering than you would have found previously with the Chromecast”.
The new Chromecast Audio operates in a similar manner to the video version of Chromecast, but connects to a pair of speakers or a hi-fi via a 3.5mm line out, optical out or standard phono (RCA) jacks. “We’re trying to do for hi-fi what we’ve done with the TV – turn your hi-fi into a smart hi-fi,” said a Google spokesperson.