(CNN) — Google on Thursday unveiled its new line of Pixel 7 smartphones and its first Pixel smartwatch, packed with health and tracking features from its subsidiary Fitbit.
At a press event in New York, Google showed off the new Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro devices, which look largely the same as the year before, but come with new camera features, an improved display and battery, and a updated Google Tensor processor.
While many of the updates are iterative, the lineup is likely to appeal to tech enthusiasts who want the latest version of Android and an alternative to Apple or Samsung smartphones, as well as those who haven’t updated their Pixel device. in some years.
The 6.3-inch Pixel 7 has a glass back, an aluminum frame, and a sleek band on the back with black cutouts for the camera system. Its always-on OLED display allows for quick checking of widgets that highlight useful information, like airport baggage claim details or when packages arrive (not unlike what recently became available on the new iPhone 14 lineup with the lock screen).
Google said the Pixel 7’s screen is now 25% brighter for indoor visibility, and the device can last a full day on a single charge (or 72 hours when in extreme battery saving mode). It comes in three colors (Obsidian, Snow, and Lemongrass) and starts at $599, or $200 less than a base iPhone 14 with the same amount of storage.
“We want people to try out the Pixel, so while phones at this level typically start at $799, the starting price is $599,” said Brian Rakowski, Google’s vice president of product management, onstage during the show. event.
The larger 6.7-inch Pixel Pro, which comes in a matte aluminum finish, features an always-on display, the same long-lasting battery as the Pixel 7, and a new triple rear camera system, including a telephoto lens. 5x lens, a 30x super zoom lens and an enhanced ultra wide angle lens. The lens comes with autofocus capabilities to support new features, including macro focus that captures fine details.
Both models are powered by Google’s new Tensor G2 processor, which powers the device’s voice recognition and machine learning capabilities, and various camera features. With Night Sight, for example, the camera now processes photos twice as fast. The technology also powers Cinematic Blur, a new dramatic blur effect for videos.
A new accessibility feature called Guided Frame helps visually impaired users take better selfies by prompting them by voice to move the device in specific directions. Google also announced updates to making calls, including background noise reduction and the ability to transcribe audio messages into text messages.
The Pro model, which comes in Obsidian, Snow, and Hazelnut, starts at $899. Pre-orders begin this Thursday for both models, and the devices will hit stores on Thursday, October 13.
Google’s Pixel line remains a niche product. Its share of the global smartphone market has never exceeded 1% per year, according to data from IDC Research. Google also limits sales to just a handful of countries, so keeping the volume low has been strategic, as Google remains predominantly a software company with many partners running Android. (Google said the Pixel 7 lineup will, however, launch in several new countries, including India, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands.)
Google likely won’t take much market share from Apple with these Pixel updates, as iPhone owners are known to be brand loyal. However, other Android smartphone makers, such as Samsung or smaller Chinese manufacturers, may feel pressure from consumer interest in Google hardware, according to Ben Wood, an analyst at CC Insight. “But given the incremental updates, there may be less enthusiasm than in the past,” he said.
At the event, Google also gave an early look at its upcoming Pixel tablet, which will feature the Tensor G2 processor and is expected to launch in 2023.
But one area where Google could make a bigger impact this year is with the introduction of the Pixel watch. It’s Google’s first wearable device to highlight Fitbit’s strengths in health, fitness and wellness since it closed its $2.1 billion acquisition of the smartwatch company early last year. Until now, Google hadn’t said anything about how the Fitbit brand would integrate with its Wear OS software.
The new 41mm Google Pixel Watch features a circular, dome-shaped Gorilla Glass display that is scratch and water resistant. It promises up to 24 hours of battery life and is compatible with Android 8 and newer devices.
Built with Fitbit’s tracking capabilities, the Pixel Watch can monitor a user’s heart rate and sleep quality, offers 40 training modes, and learns user behavior over time.
The device also helps with emergency SOS and is compatible with a handful of Google services, including Google Wallet, Gmail and calendar updates, as well as sending messages and talking over 4G. The Pixel Watch comes in black, gold, and silver finishes. It will cost $349 for Bluetooth and $399 for 4G LTE.
“Pixel Watch doesn’t pose a threat to the Apple Watch, but it does have an important role to play in raising awareness of smartwatches for Android smartphone owners,” Wood said. “Given the success of the Apple Watch, there has to be a bigger market for smartwatches in the Android segment and, along with Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, the new Pixel Watch should be a key driver for growth.”
However, it may take a few generations for the Pixel Watch to catch up to the Apple Watch in terms of usability, as Apple’s smartwatch is now in its ninth version. But along with the acquisition of Fitbit and the formation of Wear OS in collaboration with Samsung, Google is showing its greater commitment to the smartwatch market and perhaps hopes that the time is finally right for it.