The company behind the world’s most popular mobile operating system will start manufacturing Pixel smartphones in India, and its flagship model, the Pixel 8, will be available next year, an executive said on Thursday. Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of devices and services, announced at a Google for India event alongside India’s Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. The tech giant joins global companies setting up facilities in the South Asian nation, which has become a top market for smartphone sales after China.
“India is a priority market for Pixel phones, and we’re looking forward to working with local manufacturers,” Osterloh said, adding that the Indian-made handsets will feature components from global suppliers. The move reflects the country’s growing importance for many hardware makers, who are shifting production to India amid disruptions from China’s COVID-19 lockdowns and Beijing’s rising tensions with the U.S., according to a recent report by The Information.
Analysts say that India’s electronics contract manufacturer industry assembles and finishes finished products for global device makers such as Apple Inc (AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is seeing robust medium-term growth fueled by rising domestic demand and government support. The country also attracts more international device makers through its lowered taxes and production-linked incentive schemes.
At the Google for India event, Osterloh touted several generative AI-powered software features that will help people in the country get the most out of their phones and online experience. The new Call Screen feature aims to reduce spam calls and fraud by using Google Assistant’s intelligence to analyze incoming calls. It will also detect suspicious phrases and alert the user’s trusted contacts, allowing users to approve or deny a call before answering.
A raft of software updates to the Pixel family were also announced. Previously, the company offered three years of Android platform updates and five years of security patches for Pixel devices. Still, now it’s upping those numbers to match those of Samsung, OnePlus, and Xiaomi. There were also updates to Google Assistant, which now offers the ability to screen calls with Call Screen and lets users converse with callers to understand better who they’re talking to.
In addition, Google launched a series of new apps geared towards India, including GPay and UPI, to increase financial inclusion. The company also partnered with the government’s ONDC platform to enable farmers to sell their goods directly to customers through the Internet, which will be built on Google’s generative AI capabilities. The features are set to roll out in the coming months. Google also rolled out a new version of Google Maps with real-time traffic updates. It will also add a feature that allows users to scan QR codes to book metro tickets and make payments from the app. The company hopes to boost its presence in the country ahead of India’s national elections later this year.