Google launches new phones, streaming devices

Google's new Nexus phones: A first look
Google's new Nexus phones: A first look
Google unveils two new Nexus phones
Google unveils two new Nexus phones
Google set to unveil Nexus
Google set to unveil Nexus

Ahead of the holiday shopping season, Google unveiled two Nexus phones, two new streaming devices and a tablet on Tuesday.

The Nexus phones, 5X and 6P are available for preorder in the Google Store in several countries starting Tuesday, the company said, with the 5X priced at $379, and the 6P priced at $499.

Google's Tuesday event, streamed on YouTube, showcased a series of highly anticipated new products like Nexus phones, next-generation Chromecast streaming devices and a fuller picture of the app development opportunities on the new Android operating system (OS).

More-affordable Android phones make up the majority of the U.S. market, and Google's latest upgrades provide comparable features to devices by competitor Apple, like a faster processor, better battery and metallic-colored chassis.

Indeed, Dave Burke, Google's vice president for engineering, compared the cameras of Nexus phones to the iPhone 6S, including slow motion, increased megapixels and 4K video. And voice-activated "Now on Tap" operates similar to Apple's Siri, as Burke demonstrated.

The phones can be used as gaming controllers, like Apple TV's new remote. And many of the streaming and sharing features of Marshmallow and Chromecast can also integrate with Apple's iOS.

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The higher-end 6P, introduced by Burke, is a 5.7-inch phone, while the 5X is 5.2 inches. Both phones have 64-bit processors, fingerprint readers and increased battery time, with the 6P charging fully in half the time of an iPhone 6 Plus, he said.

Burke used the phones to demonstrate the new notifications and security features available from the home screen of Android's new Marshmallow operating system.

In addition to quicker access, the phones use machine learning to adapt to a user's specific patterns over time, Burke said. They also learn power patterns to conserve battery life — saving up to 30 percent more through "Doze Mode" software changes alone, he said.

And users can now use Google's search functions across apps in their phones.

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And Pixel C, a tablet version of Google's light-use Chromebook computer, comes with a keyboard that is charged by the tablet itself. Pixel C will be available by the holidays and starts at $499, with the keyboard an additional $149, the company said.

"The reason that we build hardware … is so we can guide the ecosystem forward," CEO Sundar Pichai said.

Google also upped its bets on video streaming, with two new Chromecast devices and an app, and partnerships with services like Sling TV, Showtime and NFL Sunday Ticket, said Mario Queiroz, Google's vice president of product management.

The new Chromecast device is available starting Tuesday in 17 countries for $35, the same price as before.

The product, a small disk with an integrated HDMI cable and better Wi-Fi capabilities, was a departure from the previous dongle-style device. The other similar-looking device, Chromecast Audio, turns a user's existing home speakers into smart home speakers.

Chromecast's audio device syncs with Spotify or any tab in a computer's Chrome browser. But at the same time, Google introduced a plan that would allow members to listen to different, personalized stations simultaneously across devices like Chromecast, phones and computers.

Starting later this year, families will be able to subscribe to Google Play Music for $14.99 a month for six people.

In addition to sharing music libraries, Google's updated photos feature rolls out this week for Android users. It allows them add photos from different devices, including Chromecast, to the same album in real time, said Anil Sabharwal, Google's director of product management, although the feature still had some hiccups when he demonstrated it Tuesday.

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The event also provided viewers with a first glance of Google CEO Pichai operating under the fresh Alphabet structure.

Pichai opened the event by commenting on Google's growth since last year's event, saying, "The scale at which everything is operating is breathtaking."

Android has 1.4 billion monthly active devices, Pichai said, emphasizing Google's outreach to schools, businesses and emerging markets.

By the end of this year, there will be more Chromebooks in U.S. schools than any other device combined, Pichai said. And 10,000 companies are either testing, or have at least partially deployed Android for Work, including the U.S. Army and World Bank, he said.

"In many, many places, countries like Indonesia and Vietnam, Android has doubled in the past year," Pichai said. "Many of these users are adopting a smartphone for the first time."