Google Event

The new Google Pixel phone is displayed following a product event, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, in San Francisco. Google launched an aggressive challenge to Apple and Samsung introducing its own new line of smartphones called Pixel, which are designed to showcase a digital helper the company calls "Google Assistant." The new phones represent a big, new push by Google to sell its own consumer devices, instead of largely just supplying software for other manufacturers. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Eric Risberg

Google's previous phones, dubbed Nexus, had limited distribution.

Now, the company is casting aside the Nexus name in favor of Pixel, a brand that Osterloh said has "always represented the best of hardware and software designed by Google."

And instead of relying primarily on online orders, as was the case with Nexus, Google will offer Pixel through Verizon as well, starting Oct. 20. Advance orders began Tuesday starting at roughly $650 for the 5-inch version and $750 for the slightly larger 5.5-inch screen. Google will also make Pixel available at Best Buy and various wireless carriers outside the U.S.

One of the advantages Google phones have long had is their quick access to Android updates. With other phones, individual manufacturers and carriers have to approve changes, resulting in delays . Google said Verizon will still have to approve updates for Pixel, but the process will be streamlined and done ahead of time.

Google promises a spectacular camera and unlimited online storage for phones at full resolution. When storage space on the phone is low, the Pixel will free up storage and rely on the online copy. Apple takes a similar approach with its iCloud Photo Library, though free storage is limited to 5 gigabytes, or a few thousand photos.

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