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Alphabet Inc NASDAQ:GOOG NASDAQ Common Stock
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  -5.58 -0.42% 1,315.12 1,314.82 1,315.31 1,327.70 1,312.80 1,327.70 722,632 20:17:49

Google's Pixel 4 Phone, Smart Speakers Nod to Hardware Hopes

15/10/2019 8:54pm

Dow Jones News


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By Rob Copeland 

Google showed off additions to its line of smartphones, wireless earbuds and other personal electronics in its latest attempt to recharge a segment of its business.

The products, shown in New York on Tuesday, run the gamut in price and function, including a flagship phone armed with radar to sense a user nearby as well as 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.

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 its standing, Google has been willing to spend billions of dollars on building its hardware business in addition to other nascent ventures.

Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh, in an interview after the event, repeatedly referred to Google as a "startup," given its short history in manufacturing its own devices. Google's first smartphone, 2010's Nexus, was manufactured by HTC Corp.

The company unveiled its first homemade products in 2016, and the stretch since has included the well-reviewed Pixel phone as well as less successful endeavors such as a virtual-reality headset.

Alphabet doesn't detail financial results for Google hardware. "This is something that takes decades to build a really robust business," Mr. Osterloh said. "We expect to be at this for the very long term."

During Tuesday's showcase event, Google executives struck a low-key tone, with few canned applause lines. Much of the aplomb centered around Google's latest smartphone, the Pixel 4, as executives highlighted enhancements in camera technology, particularly for taking low-light snapshots.

The previous Pixel phone model earned strong reviews, if not sales, for its camera and streamlined design.

Google executives also talked up a 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.

One new Pixel color is called "Oh So Orange," reflecting the whimsy Google tries to infuse in marketing. The phone starts at $799, the same as last year, and goes on sale this month.

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., Amazon.com 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 acting as a drag on 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.

A new generation of wireless earbuds due out 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 the Nest Mini on Tuesday. Google placed under the Nest name an upgraded mesh router that now includes accessories that double as smart speakers, an encouragement to spread the speakers into more rooms of a house.

"Our products don't have to be about the glitz," said Rishi Chandra, general manager of Google Nest, after the event. "It's about: How does it do meaningful stuff for you?"

Acquisitions such as Nest might receive additional scrutiny following 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.

Write to Rob Copeland at rob.copeland@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 15, 2019 15:39 ET (19:39 GMT)

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

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