5 Google Pixel Features That Matter—for Users and Marketers

Google’s big announcement means it’s time to start focusing on OTT marketing and VR

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When Google has something to say, smart marketers pay attention. From search to mobile to wearables and more, Google has established itself as a major player in nearly every niche in the mobile and digital ecosystems, giving even small announcements the potential to significantly impact how brands reach, engage, and retain their customers going forward.

This week’s announcement that Google is launching its first Google-designed smartphone, the Google Pixel, in partnership with HTC, is no different. Shipping with Android Nougat 7.1 (the latest version of Google mobile OS), the Pixel aims for a Google vision of the ideal mobile user experience on Android and has the potential to have just as big an impact on marketing over the long haul.

Here are the most important developments coming from Google:

1. Google Pixel’s focus on marrying hardware and software on mobile

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The new Google Pixel smartphone (Source: Google)

Pixel is being positioned as Google’s first direct challenger to the Apple iPhone, and as with the iPhone, Google is making a point of marrying Android Nougat’s advanced features and capabilities with an array of best-in-class technologies (like an astounding 12.3-megapixel camera with support for intelligent HDR photos). By creating phones that can take full advantage of Android Nougat’s new features, Google has a major opportunity to demonstrate the full power of its mobile operating system, nudging other Android smartphone manufacturers to keep up and encouraging users to install the most current version of Android, when possible.

2. Google Assistant’s support for integrations with third-party brands

Every Pixel smartphone will come built in with Google Assistant and Google’s Allo chat app (which includes Google Assistant support), allowing users to more easily take advantage of Google’s powerful search and artificial intelligence capabilities right from their mobile devices and introducing these features to a wider audience.

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Google’s Scott Huffman highlights Uber’s integration with Google Assistant (Source: The Verge)

The big news for marketers? Google also announced that it will be opening up Google Assistant to third-party integrations, allowing users to, for instance, order rides from car-sharing services or access restaurant menus using voice commands. By taking advantage of Google Assistant integrations, brands have a big, new opportunity to reach Pixel users (and Android users more broadly) directly through this platform. These sorts of direct customer-brand interactions are reminiscent of the seamless experiences seen when brands successfully integrate with OTT messaging apps and have the potential to grow into a major marketing channel as more people are exposed to Google Assistant and its possibilities.

3. Android Nougat’s focus on improving the messaging experience for users

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Users will be able to silence or block push notifications more easily on Android Nougat

When users start receiving push notifications on their new Google Pixel, they’ll find that the experience of receiving outreach from apps has changed—for the better. With Android Nougat, Google has focused on providing users with a more customizable, more valuable messaging experience by allowing customers to more easily opt out of notifications they’re not interested in, bundling together notifications sent by a single app to discourage over-messaging and make it easier to find the messages users are looking for, and allowing users to reply to messages sent by third-party apps within the notification. For brands that aren’t sending personalized, actionable notifications at a reasonable cadence, these changes are a major incentive to start.

4. Android Nougat’s support for more user control over the app experience

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Android Nougat’s split-screen view on smartphone and tablet (Source: Tom’s Guide)

Android Nougat’s focus on providing users with more control over their mobile experience extends to the app level, too: users will be able to have multiple apps open simultaneously in split-screen and to flip between their two most recent apps. That change makes it even more important for brands to ensure that they’re providing users with a valuable in-app experience and have the messaging tools (like in-app messages or News Feed Cards) they need to keep users engaged in the face of side-by-side competition from other apps.

5. Google Pixel’s embrace of virtual reality

After augmented reality had its mobile coming-out party this summer with the runaway success of Pokémon Go, everyone was wondering when virtual reality (VR) would have its time in the sun. During this year’s edition of Google I/O, Google announced Daydream, a VR platform, but disappointed those hoping for the release of a Google virtual reality device during the event.

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Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform (Source: Google)

This week’s announcement made up for it: not only did Google announce a VR system at an unexpectedly affordable price point, it also made clear that Pixel will support Daydream (with other Android devices expected to follow), allowing people who invest in the smartphone to explore virtual reality with little additional cost or effort. While time will tell if Daydream becomes the dominant VR platform, Google’s move ups the stakes and makes it more important than ever for marketers to think about how to take advantage of this emerging technology to reach and engage their customers.

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