New phone launches these days are pretty darn consistent. By and large, they're all about the hardware and why this latest model is light years better than the one you saw last year: the snazzier design, the smaller bezels, the sharper display, and so on.

At this week's Pixel 3 launchapalooza, Google took a decidedly different approach. Sure, its presenters glossed over some of those standard hardware high points — physical niceties that set the phone apart from its predecessor and give this latest model a reason to exist — but the real focus, and the sell for most people, was something far less tangible. Cementing a strategy the company started with its first Pixel two years ago and then refined with last year's second-gen model, Google basically told us: Hey, hardware is fine and all, but everyone's got the same stuff — and none of it is especially exciting anymore. Where we're gonna shine is in an area where no one else can compete: software.

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