Google bucks soaring smartphone prices with new Pixel

Photo: AFP

Google bucked the soaring smartphone price trend Tuesday, unveiling a high-performance Pixel handset aimed at the middle of the market as part of a wide-ranging pitch to developers of its new hardware, software and privacy efforts.

The Pixel 3a phone, which includes many of the artificial intelligence features of its flagship devices, is priced from $399, executives said as Google opened its annual I/O developers conference near its headquarters in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View.

"There has been a troubling trend of high-end phones getting more expensive," Google head of hardware Rick Osterloh said.

"So, we challenged ourselves to deliver a high-end experience in a new Pixel 3a starting at $399."

The new Pixel was available at Google's online shop.

Osterloh contended that the price is about half that of latest generation premium smartphones but is built with camera, digital assistant and other features found in top-end handsets.

"They just redefined what a mid-priced phone can do," Forrester Research principal analyst Frank Gillett said at the event.

"But they didn't tell us what compromises they made on the hardware."

Google's expertise is software, so getting features like artificial intelligence to work on less costly smartphones plays to the internet giant's strength, according to Gillett.

Enabling artificial intelligence to handle sophisticated features on smartphone means less user data needs to be shared with online data centers to handle tasks, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said while discussing steps being taken to strengthen privacy and security of users.

"We always want to do more for users, but do it with less data over time," Pichai said.

"We strongly believe that privacy and security are for everyone."

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