Google launches new phones, speakers in hardware push

A Google employee holds up a Google Pixel 2 XL phone at a Google event at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Updated 04 October 2017
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Google launches new phones, speakers in hardware push

SAN FRANCISCO,US: Alphabet Inc’s Google on Wednesday unveiled the second generation of its Pixel smartphone along with new voice-enabled home speakers, redoubling its commitment to the hardware business as it competes with a surge in devices from Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
The new devices, which include a Pixelbook laptop, wireless earbuds and a small GoPro-like camera, showcase Google-developed operating systems and services, notably the voice assistant. That means usage of those devices should stoke the company’s core ad sales business as buyers of the hardware use Google services like search and maps.
The Pixel 2 smartphone comes in two sizes, with comparable features, including aluminum bodies and no traditional jacks for headphones. Prices for the base model start at $649, while the high-end version starts at $849. The phones will be available Oct. 19.
Pixelbook, priced at $999, is the first laptop powered by Google Assistant and will support Snap Inc’s Snapchat, the company said. It would be available in stores from Oct. 31.
Google Home Mini, the new speaker, is priced at $49 in the United States and would rival Amazon.com Inc’s popular Echo Dot. It will be available by the end of the year.
The Pixel debuted a year ago, with analysts estimating sales of more than 2 million, pushing Google to record amounts of non-advertising revenue. Google’s “other” revenue category, which includes both hardware and sales of online storage services, accounted for about 12 percent of overall sales in its most recent quarter.
Last month, Google expanded its hardware development capabilities by picking up a 2,000-person smartphone engineering team at HTC for $1.1 billion.
Still, Google has a large gulf to cross before matching the 215 million iPhones sold by Apple in the last four quarters.


Study: Smokers better off quitting, even with weight gain

In this June 22, 2012 file photo, a smoker extinguishes a cigarette in an ash tray in Sacramento, Calif. (AP)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Study: Smokers better off quitting, even with weight gain

  • Quitters saw their risk of diabetes increase by 22 percent in the six years after they kicked the habit
  • The people enrolled in the studies were all health professionals, and did not mirror current smokers in the general population, who are disproportionately low-income, less-educated and more likely to smoke heavily

NEW YORK: If you quit smoking and gain weight, it may seem like you’re trading one set of health problems for another. But a new US study finds you’re still better off in the long run.
Compared with smokers, even the quitters who gained the most weight had at least a 50 percent lower risk of dying prematurely from heart disease and other causes, the Harvard-led study found.
The study is impressive in its size and scope and should put to rest any myth that there are prohibitive weight-related health consequences to quitting cigarettes, said Dr. William Dietz, a public health expert at George Washington University.
“The paper makes pretty clear that your health improves, even if you gain weight,” said Dietz, who was not involved in the research. “I don’t think we knew that with the assurance that this paper provides.”
The New England Journal of Medicine published the study Wednesday. The journal also published a Swedish study that found quitting smoking seems to be the best thing diabetics can do to cut their risk of dying prematurely.
The nicotine in cigarettes can suppress appetite and boost metabolism. Many smokers who quit and don’t step up their exercise find they eat more and gain weight — typically less than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms), but in some cases three times that much.
A lot of weight gain is a cause of the most common form of diabetes, a disease in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Diabetes can lead to problems including blindness, nerve damage, heart and kidney disease and poor blood flow to the legs and feet.
In the US study, researchers tracked more than 170,000 men and women over roughly 20 years, looking at what they said in health questionnaires given every two years.
The people enrolled in the studies were all health professionals, and did not mirror current smokers in the general population, who are disproportionately low-income, less-educated and more likely to smoke heavily.
The researchers checked which study participants quit smoking and followed whether they gained weight and developed diabetes, heart disease or other conditions.
Quitters saw their risk of diabetes increase by 22 percent in the six years after they kicked the habit. An editorial in the journal characterized it as “a mild elevation” in the diabetes risk.
Studies previously showed that people who quit have an elevated risk of developing diabetes, said Dr. Qi Sun, one the study’s authors. He is a researcher at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
But that risk doesn’t endure, and it never leads to a higher premature death rate than what smokers face, he said.
“Regardless of the amount of weight gain, quitters always have a lower risk of dying” prematurely, Sun said.