A Simple Click Really Helps

Google phone | The PIXEL

What is the first thing you want to do with a smartphone? When you’re trying the new Google Pixel phone, the answer has to be ask it a question.

The headline act of the 5-inch and 5.5-inch (12.7cms to 14cms) Google Pixel phone has to be Google Assistant, the smart digital assistant that is Google’s answer to Siri on the iPhone.

To activate Google Assistant you can issue a voice command, or in a crowded and noisy room full of technology journalists desperate to get hands on with a new shiny gadget, hitting the home button on the bottom of the screen does the trick.

When it works, Google Phone Assistant is truly impressive on

In a demonstration with a Google worker who is clearly rather stoked with his new phone, asking things like “Show me pictures of Ellie in Europe” resulted in pictures of Ellie (his wife) on their Europe holiday.

Google Phone

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a product event. Picture: APSource:AP

 That’s not a bad trick but Google Assistant goes one further. One of the features Google highlighted in the launch was improvements to photo recognition, and one of those improvements is that it recognises landmarks around the world.

Asking for photos of a person at a landmark like the Rialto Bridge shows the person at that particular spot in Venice.

Another example, again using the Google employee’s family members who like to travel, found Ellie standing in front the Rockefeller Centre in New York.

The demonstration is impressive, particularly when the photo used in the case had just a snippet of the Rockefeller with just a statue in front of the building enough to flag to the Google Assistant of the location.

When I tried Google Assistant it was more hit and miss.

Yes, it knows Malcolm Turnbull is our prime minister and is happy to tell you his age, but a follow up question of “who was prime minister before Malcolm Turnbull” had it stumped, with one suggestion being an Indian politician.

Google Assistant is not quite sure who former prime minister Tony Abbott is. Picture: AAP

Google Assistant is not quite sure who former prime minister Tony Abbott is. Picture: AAPSource:AAP

Google Assistant can tell you that Malcolm Turnbull is the prime minister of Australia. Picture: Adam Armstrong

Google Phone Assistant can tell you that Malcolm Turnbull is the prime minister of Australia. Picture: Adam ArmstrongSource:News Corp Australia

Asking non-specific questions like “who won the rugby league grand final in Sydney” gave a Wikipedia list of grand final results, and the admittedly tougher question of “why can we now turn the porch light off?” just gave information on the safe uses of lights on a porch.

As for the rest of the phone, the comparisons that the new Pixel phone looks like an iPhone is valid, although there are key differences.

The fingerprint scanner is on the back of the phone rather than the physical home button of an iPhone. Also, there is of course no physical home button on the Pixel phone.

Opening the camera from the lock screen is fast and using the camera is quick, although whether it really is quicker on the shutter than any other iPhone it’s hard to tell.

It is a 12.3 megapixel camera, which is now considered standard, but there is no dual-lens bonus of the iPhone 7 Plus.

If you want the Really Blue phone you’re out of luck. In Australia, the choice will be between the Very Silver and the Quite Black.

One big notable difference between this and an iPhone is that there is an audio jack, which is situated at the top of the phone.

Google assistant was not too kniowledgable about daylight savings. Picture: Naomi Ross/Facebook

Google assistant was not too kniowledgable about daylight savings. Picture: Naomi Ross/FacebookSource:Facebook

The biggest concern with the design is not that it looks like something else but that it might be easier to break than some. The top third of the back panel of the Pixel phone is rugged glass.

While we certainly didn’t put it through a drop test (that sort of thing is generally frowned on in a hands on area of a phone launch), the glass would certainly have to be a weak point if your dropped it.

If you do buy a Pixel phone you’ll probably want to buy one of Google’s new phone cases.

It charges through USB-C, and the fast charge feature of 7 hours of battery life in 15 minutes is a clever idea.

What is not so clever is that this doesn’t have a water resistance rating unlike smartphones from Samsung, Sony and, finally, Apple.

Is there anything groundbreaking about the Google phone design? Nothing that is obvious at first glance, although that is doing a disservice to Google Assistant and that this is the first phone to be built with Google’s Daydream VR headset in mind.

This is a phone from Google that comes under the Google brand, and that’s a big deal.

Does it have enough to make someone go past a Samsung or Apple phone?

With the stigma of Samsung’s Note 7 fiasco and Apple’s missing headphone jack, perhaps the best thing it offers is a good alternative at just the right time.

The Google Pixel starts at $1079 for the 5-inch Pixel with 32GB storage and $1269 for the 5.5 inch Google Pixel XL with 32GB. Telstra is the exclusive Australian telco. It’s available today for pre-order and will be officially released October 20.


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