Google just announced that it will bring its Google Assistant personal digital assistant to more Android handsets. And fairly immediately, too: As soon as this week, Google Assistant will appear on phones running Android 7.0 and 6.0.
“Whether you need to know how to say ‘nice to meet you’ in Korean or just a simple reminder to do laundry when you get home, your Assistant can help,” the Google announcement notes. “With the Google Assistant on Android phones, you have your own personal, helpful Google right in your pocket.”
As you may recall, Google Assistant debuted on the firm’s Allo messaging app for Android in September. But the technology was announced earlier in 2016, in May, at Google I/O. And Google Assistant has since appeared in other products, including its new Pixel and Pixel XL handsets, the Google Home appliance, Android Wear. In January, Google said it would bring Assistant to Android TV and Android Auto as well.
Like Microsoft’s Cortana and other personal digital assistants—Amazon Alex and Apple Siri being the most prominent—Google Assistant allows users to make voice-based “ambient” and interactive Internet searches that, over time, are involving in ever-more sophisticated conversations. These assistants are in many ways the future UX for personal computing, and as such I’ve decided to embrace the inevitable and spend more time and effort this year figuring how they work, and how to best integrate this functionality into my own workflows.
When Google first added its Assistant to the Pixel handsets, it was seen—by me, at least—as yet another weird and unnecessary differentiator between those phones and all other Android phones. But it’s also fair to note that previous-generation Android phones, and other phones based on Android 7.0 (“Nougat”) utilize features like Google Now that are, essentially, the same as Google Assistant. That is, they allow you to perform the same tasks, often using the exact same interaction techniques.
But it’s no surprise, too, that Google would expand the availability of its Assistant to more Android devices, providing a more consistent way to discuss this functionality.
Anyway, here’s how it’s happening.
According to Google, the Google Assistant will begin rolling out this week to English-speaking users in the United States. Later—it’s unclear when—Assistant will be rolled out to English speakers in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, and to German speakers in Germany. Google says it will “continue to add more languages over the coming year.” This is a big deal, because one of the problems with Cortana is language/region availability. For this stuff to take off, it has to be universal.
You will get the Google Assistant on your Android 6.x or 7.x phone as long as you are running “full Android,” which is to say a phone with Google Play Services.
“Our goal is to make the Assistant available anywhere you need it,” the Google announcement concludes. “It came to Android Wear 2.0—via new smartwatches—just a few weeks ago and, as we previewed in January, the Assistant is also coming to TVs and cars. With this update, hundreds of millions of Android users will now be able to try out the Google Assistant.”