Google's New Phones, Speakers Nod to Hardware Hopes

Date : 10/15/2019 @ 4:02PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Alphabet Inc (GOOGL)
Quote : 1300.14  -1.72 (-0.13%) @ 12:59AM
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Google's New Phones, Speakers Nod to Hardware Hopes

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By Rob Copeland 

Google showed off a renewed line of smartphones, wireless earbuds and smart speakers in its latest attempt to recharge a lagging segment of its business.

The products, shown during a showcase in New York Tuesday, run the gamut in price and function, from a flagship phone armed with radar to sense a user nearby to a lower-price version of Google's laptop-tablet hybrid. They show Google placing its chips across the board, hoping for more hits to pair with its popular Home smart speakers.

The narrative, as offered onstage by Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh: "The devices aren't the center of the system -- you are."

Though Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., is a dominant force in online search and advertising, it occupies a much weaker position in hardware among its tech peers. Despite the position, Google is willing to spend big on building the business in addition to other nascent ventures.

In the smartphone market, Google trails Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., both of which have dominated shipments in the U.S. and world-wide in recent years. Microsoft Corp., Inc., and Facebook Inc. have also ramped up spending in recent years on new consumer products.

On an earnings call earlier this year, Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai blamed disappointing sales of last year's Pixel phone for helping drag overall company results. The Pixel line has 5% market share in the U.S., according to researcher Strategy Analytics, and an even smaller share abroad.

The previous Pixel model earned strong reviews, if not sales, for its camera and streamlined design. This year's Pixel 4 model adds the usual photography enhancements, particularly for lowlight snapshots, and includes a bit of the company's typical whimsy. One new color is called "Oh So Orange." The phone starts at $799, the same as last year, and goes on sale this month.

On stage, Google executives talked up technology called "Soli," a motion-sensing radar addition to the front of the Pixel phone. A promotional video showed a customer silencing a call by waving her hand at the screen.

A new generation of wireless earbuds next year, called the Google Pixel Buds, will be able to pair with a device as distant as the far end of a football field.

While competitors have some similar features, Google pitches its ability to link devices and functionality across products including Nest, a maker of internet-connected home electronics that the company bought for $3.2 billion in 2014. The popular Google Home Mini was renamed Tuesday the Nest Mini.

Such acquisitions may receive additional scrutiny in the wake of recently announced federal and state antitrust investigations into Google's business. Google overhauled its Washington lobbying operation earlier this year and has pushed the message that its products increase consumer choice. In a July securities filing, Alphabet said it continues to engage with regulators world-wide regarding competition matters.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 15, 2019 11:47 ET (15:47 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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