SAN FRANCISCO: Google will for the first time launch its Pixel smartphone in Singapore - making it the first Southeast Asian market to have the device.
In the launch event here on Wednesday (Oct 4), Google announced that there are two models of its Pixel devices - the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. It did not disclose the manufacturers of the phones this time.
The devices will be equipped with Active Edge, which will allow users to squeeze it to activate certain functions such as Google Assistant, confirming earlier industry rumours.
The Active Edge feature is similar that seen on HTC’s U11, which should not come as a surprise given that the tech giant announced it would pay the Taiwanese handset maker US$1.1 billion for the team who previously worked on the Pixel device. It will also separately receive a non-exclusive licence to the former’s intellectual property.
Besides Active Edge, the Pixel 2 will also eliminate the headphone jack - following in the footsteps of rival Apple - and come with Google Lens, “a new set of visual smarts” that would allow users to, for instance, copy and share Web addresses from posters or save phone numbers and email addresses from images of business cards, it said.
This feature builds on Google’s machine learning and computer vision technologies, and will be exclusive to its Pixel devices via Google Photos, and “in the coming weeks” Google Assistant, the company said.
SINGAPORE TO GET PIXEL 2 XL
Google also said for certain markets, it is entering via partnerships with local telcos. Singapore, as well as Spain and Italy, were picked for this initiative, it said.
This go-to-market strategy was earlier illustrated when the tech company made its first foray into the hardware market in Southeast Asia by launching its Google WiFi mesh router in Singapore via an exclusive partnership with StarHub.
In a separate press release on Wednesday, Singtel said it will bring in the Pixel 2 XL device as Google’s exclusive telco partner, and the device will be launched on Nov 15. Those keen can register their interest for the smartphone at singtel.com/googlepixel from 9am on Oct 5 (Singapore time), it added.
When asked how long the exclusive agreement will last, a Singtel spokesperson said: “We are unable to comment on commercial agreements but we are very excited to bring another innovative device to our customers."
The telco added that the Pixel 2 XL is a Category 11 4G LTE device, which would allow customers to experience data speeds of up to 500Mbps across Singapore. While it does not have wireless charging, as offered by rival devices such as iPhone 8 and iPhone X, Singtel said the device will come with a “long-lasting battery with seven hours of battery from 15 minutes of charge” using the provided USB-C charger.
Additionally, those getting the device will have free, unlimited storage of original-quality photos and video in Google Photos “through the end of 2020”, and “free, unlimited high-quality storage” for photos taken on the Pixel thereafter, Singtel said.
Google said Singapore will get the Black and White and Just Black models at launch. Other details such as the retail price will be revealed nearer the local launch date.
“SINGLISH” GOOGLE ASSISTANT IN THE WORKS
Google also told reporters here that Google Assistant will also roll out its “Singaporean English” language feature “later this year”.
Also in the pipeline is the wireless Pixel Buds earphones, which was announced during the launch event. Controls for answering calls, audio and accessing Google Assistant have been designed on the earbud itself, so eliminating the need for the phone. The earphones provide up to five hours of listening time with a single charge, while the “pocket-sized” charging case holds “multiple charges”, the company said.
The made-by-Google earphones will be made available in Singapore and Australia “later in November”, it added.