Google shows off latest smartphones, other products

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The Google Pixel 2 XL

The Google Pixel 2 XL

Google unveiled its latest smartphones and a large batch of other smart products that take advantage of the Google Assistant digital personal assistant.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL provide a few upgrades to previous models, the most notable being the smartphones’ camera capability. As with other manufacturers, Google added a so-called portrait mode, which makes for more realistic portrait images even in low-light conditions, but Google did so without adding a second rear-facing camera, as other manufacturers did. Consequently, the smartphones’ portrait mode is available on the front-facing camera as well.

Another big change is that the size of the Pixel 2 XL screen increased to 6.0 inches, from 5.5, and is now almost a full-size screen even though the phone’s size increased only slightly.. Google also removed the standard headphone jack from the phone, 1 year after making a big deal about keeping it in its first line of smartphones.

The Pixel 2 starts at $649 for a 64GB model, and the Pixel 2 XL starts at $849 for a 64GB model. As with the previous models, Verizon Wireless will be the sole compatible cellphone-service provider at launch. You can order either of the Pixel 2 smartphones now, but Google didn’t say when they would ship or when they would be available in stores.

In addition, Google unveiled:

* Two more voice-controlled speakers, the Home Mini and Home Max. As with the Home, the speakers include the Google Assistant digital assistant and allow you to access information online or control other connected devices. The Home Mini is about the size and shape of a doughnut, costs $49 and will be available Oct. 19. The Home Max is twice the size of the existing Home and includes two 4.5-inch woofers. It will cost $399 and will be available in December 2017, Google says.

* A Pixelbook Chromebook convertible notebook computer. The notebook computer is notable for its inclusion of the Google Assistant and its capability to tether automatically with a Pixel smartphone if you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, rather than you having to set up a wireless hotspot, as you do with other models. It will be available Oct. 31 and start at $999.

* Wireless earphone headphones. The Pixel Buds, which cost $159, include the Google Assistant and allow for real-time language translation in addition to reading messages or texts (or adjusting the volume of your music). They’ll be available in November 2017.