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Google unveils new Pixel smartphone

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Prices for the Pixel 2 base model start at $649 (R8 807), while the high-end version starts at $849 (R11 521).
Prices for the Pixel 2 base model start at $649 (R8 807), while the high-end version starts at $849 (R11 521).

Google has unveiled the second generation of its Pixel smartphone along with new voice-enabled home speakers, redoubling its commitment to the hardware business as it competes with a surge in devices from Apple and Amazon.

The new devices, which include a Pixelbook laptop, wireless earbuds and a small GoPro-like camera, showcase Google-developed operating systems and services, notably the voice assistant. That means usage of those devices should stoke the company's core ad sales business as buyers of the hardware use Google services like search and maps.

The Pixel 2 smartphone comes in two sizes, with comparable features, including aluminium bodies and no traditional jacks for headphones. Prices for the base model start at $649 (R8 807), while the high-end version starts at $849 (R11 521). The phones will be available 19 October in the United States.

Pixelbook, priced at $999 (R13 557), is the first laptop powered by Google Assistant and will support Snapchat, the company said. It would be available in US stores from 31 October.

Google Home Mini, the new speaker, is priced at $49 (R665) in the United States and would rival Amazon's popular Echo Dot. It will be available by the end of the year.

The Pixel debuted a year ago, with analysts estimating sales of more than 2 million, pushing Google to record amounts of non-advertising revenue. Google's "other" revenue category, which includes both hardware and sales of online storage services, accounted for about 12% of overall sales in its most recent quarter.

Last month, Google expanded its hardware development capabilities by picking up a 2 000-person smartphone engineering team at HTC for $1.1 billion (R15 billion).

Still, Google has a large gulf to cross before matching the 215 million iPhones sold by Apple in the last four quarters.

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