Google Updates $499 Low-End Pixel Phone, Cuts Tablet Price

 Alphabet Inc.’s Google rolled out a new version of its $499 lower-end Pixel smartphone, aiming to entice budget-minded shoppers with an updated screen and artificial intelligence features.

The Pixel 8a device, which comes a year after the 7a model, adds a faster processor, brighter screen, an option for double the storage and new AI features for the camera, the company said on Tuesday. Google is also cutting the price of its Pixel Tablet by offering a new $399 version that doesn’t come with a charging stand.

The unveiling — coming within hours of Apple Inc. introducing new iPad models — is an attempt to get more aggressive in phones and tablets. Though Google’s Android software is used by much of the device industry, its own hardware products have made less of a dent.

The updated Pixel phone looks slightly different than the 7a, with more rounded edges. And it comes in four newly named colors: obsidian, porcelain, bay and aloe. The aluminum frame around the phone has a satin texture, while the back is now made from a grippier matte material instead of glossy plastic.

The $499 model continues to include 128 gigabytes of storage, but a pricier 256-gigabyte version also is available for the first time. The new screen is 40% brighter and includes a faster, 120-hertz refresh rate, matching screens on many higher-end devices. The Pixel Tablet bundled with a stand still costs $499.

A big focus of the new phones is AI software capabilities. That includes a Circle to Search feature that first debuted on Samsung Electronics Co. devices earlier this year. It lets you seek more information on objects on your screen by circling them your finger, without having to leave the app. There also are AI enhancements for photos and videos.

Like the 7a, the 8a will be manufactured in Vietnam — part of a larger push by electronics makers to build devices outside China.

The announcements come a week ahead of Google’s I/O event, where it will roll out new AI and Android software features. It’s been an eventful few weeks for the Google division. The company just reshuffled its management to put Pixel head Rick Osterloh in charge of Android and its other software platforms.

Google has shown recent signs of progress, following years of struggling to compete with Apple, Samsung and Chinese brands. Pixel holds 4.6% of the US market, according to research firm IDC, up from 3.6% in 2022.

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