Google made a surprise announcement on February 26, 2017, stating that its much-hyped Assistant will be arriving sooner than expected. The announcement on the official Google blog included this passage:
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.
For phones running either Android 7.0 Nougat or Android 6.0 Marshmallow that also meet the hardware minimums of at least 1.5 GB of RAM and a 720p screen, the update should arrivie soon. Any eligible device must be running Nougat and Marshmallow with Google Play Services.
This means you don't have to buy a Pixel phone or use Google Allo to use Google Assistant; it also means that 30% of all current Android devices will soon enjoy the power of this conversational AI. Trust me, you want that added benefit of a digital assistant that syncs across apps and can dive deeper into your searches via the impressive take on Google Now.
SEE: Google Assistant: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
How to get Google Assistant
The rollouts will start occurring this week (the week of February 27, 2017), beginning with English-speaking users in the US. Beyond that, you need to open Google Play on your Android devices, swipe right from the left edge of the screen (or tap the menu button in the top left corner), tap My Apps & Games, and then, if you see updates, either tap the Update All button or tap the individual buttons for the Google apps. The update you are looking for specifically is Google Play Services. As soon as you spot an update for that particular app, chances are it will include Assistant.
There is one caveat: Oftentimes Google Play Services (even when it's installed) doesn't show up in the Google Play Store. In order to get to the Google Play Services app on the Google Play Store, follow these steps.
- Open Chrome on your Android device.
- Search for Google Play Services.
- Long press the top entry (Figure A).
- Tap Open in the new tab.
You should see Google Play Services in the Google Play Store.
If Google Play Services has an available update, it will include an UPDATE button; otherwise, it'll have a DEACTIVATE button (Figure B).
As of this writing, neither of my Nougat-powered devices (a Nexus 6 and a OnePlus 3) have been updated to include Google Assistant. I am confident that update will arrive to both devices by the end of the week.
SEE: Ebook: Personal digital assistants: The current lineup (TechRepublic)
Google Assistant is worth the wait
Thanks to Google Allo, I've kicked the tires of Google Assistant, and I think it's not only the logical evolution of Google Now, but an incredible step forward in mobile assistance and AI. With Google Assistant you can dive deeper into searching and more easily interact with applications on your device. If you want your Android experience to be as efficient, intuitive, and helpful as possible, you should add this update to all of your eligible devices.
If your device doesn't qualify for the update, or if you don't want to wait for the update to hit your device, I suggest installing Google Allo and getting up to speed on Google Assistant so you're ready when the real deal arrives. When you open Google Allo, you need to tap the Google Assistant chat to begin using the tool (Figure C).
Whether you use Google Assistant via Google Allo or you get the full-blown tool via an upgrade, Assistant is very much worth the wait.
- Interview questions: Android developer (Tech Pro Research)
- What Google Assistant can and cannot do in Google Allo (TechRepublic)
- AI chatbots are overhyped and unimpressive, say developers (TechRepublic)
- Goodbye Google Now Launcher, hello Pixel Launcher (TechRepublic)
- Would you swap Amazon Alexa for Siri or Google Now on your smartphone? (TechRepublic)
- Is AI the next Android differentiator? LG teases 'less artificial more intelligence' for G6 (ZDNet)
- Nokia and Google: Tech's most unlikely BFFs? (CNET)
- Mobile World Congress 2017 coverage (CNET)
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.