Google has announced that it’s bringing the Google Assistant to more Android phones starting this week. All phones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and 7.0 Nougat will be getting an OTA update via Google Play Services in the coming weeks. Here’s how Google describes the staged rollout:
The Google Assistant will begin rolling out this week to English users in the U.S., followed by English in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as German speakers in Germany. We’ll continue to add more languages over the coming year.
Until now, the Google Assistant was only available on Google’s own phone, the Pixel, and has been rumored to be on LG’s upcoming G6. But LG’s claim to have the first non-Pixel phone with the assistant is apparently going to be very short-lived.
Now, Google’s Assistant is an improvement on the previous voice search features on Android, in that it’s able to do a bit more and control your smart home devices. Google calls it a “conversational” interface, but that conversation isn’t so much more immersive than the old way that it will change your digital life.
But there will be one big improvement for Android users with compatible phones: you’ll be able to invoke the assistant by long-pressing the home button instead of hunting down a microphone button on the home screen or hoping that your phone will respond correctly to the prompt “OK Google.” This replaces the “Now on Tap” feature that long-pressing the home button used to invoke — and a good thing, too, because Now on Tap has pretty much failed to live up to its promise as a universal Google glue that tied your apps and personal data together. If you want those screen-reading features, they’re still there, just integrated into the Google Assistant (and they work a bit better there than before, too).
It’s still perhaps a little unclear whether every Android phone running Marshmallow and Nougat will get the update, and Google specifies it’s coming to “eligible devices.” On the other hand it also says, “With this update, hundreds of millions of Android users will now be able to try out the Google Assistant,” so if you have a recent Android phone, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have an update soon.