Google's Pixel phones are here, and ready to take on the iPhone. The company showed off the 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL in San Francisco today, promising the best of Google's hardware and software in two shiny new handsets.

The devices mark a new initiative by Google to take more control over its phones, from design to production (hence the switch from the Nexus name). While Nexus phones were very much made in collaboration with manufacturers, the Pixels are almost fully Google, like the Chromebooks and tablet with which they share a name.

The new phones are as much about software as hardware, though. The Google Assistant, already available in the Allo apps, is being given even higher billing than the phones themselves – Google is banking on this intelligent assistant becoming your best friend, and the Pixels are just the start.

You can think of it as Google Now 2.0, responding intelligently to queries about photos, events, people, places and so on, from any of your apps. Also on board is Android Nougat 7.1, the latest version of Google's mobile OS.

The Pixel and Pixel XL are surprisingly similar in terms of specs. Both are fitted with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 CPU (a step up from the 820 in most of this year's phones), 4 GB of RAM and your pick of 32 GB or 128 GB of internal storage.

The five main selling points of the Pixel experience(Credit: Google)

Both phones have 12.3-MP cameras front and rear, and Google says they set new standards in terms of cameras on Android (or iOS) devices. We'll have to wait to give them a try before we can confirm that, of course.

The camera comes with a few handy tricks, including smart video stabilization and a Smartburst mode that takes a bunch of pictures and then chooses the best one for you. Pixel owners will be able to upload as many photos and videos as they like, at full resolution, to Google Photos too.

You get a fingerprint scanner around the back on both models, USB-C connector ports, and quick charging technology, which is all pretty much par for the course these days. These phones are also ready for Daydream VR, Google's virtual reality platform.

The key differences between the phones are in the display and the battery. The 5-inch Pixel offers a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels (441 ppi) and a 2,770-mAh battery, whereas the 5.5-inch Pixel XL has a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels (534 ppi) and a 3,450-mAh power pack.

Prices start at US$649. Pre-orders are open now in a limited number of countries, including the US and UK, and you get your pick of "quite black", "very silver" and "really blue" (those are Google's names, not ours).

Product page: Google Store

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