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Hey Google, I was using that button!

Hey Google, I was using that button!

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Sometimes I get really tired of Android features that I like being precipitously changed or dumped.

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Illustration of Google’s wordmark, written in red and pink on a dark blue background.
Illustration: The Verge

Every time another Google app or feature bites the dust — even a small, relatively inconsequential one — I get annoyed. Really annoyed.

Here’s the thing: there are Google Assistant-equipped devices in three rooms of my relatively small house: living room, bedroom, and office. Which means, unfortunately, that when I say “Hey, Google” out loud to my phone, I am just as likely to get a reaction from one — or more — of those three devices. (Yes, I know that’s not supposed to happen and no, we haven’t been able to fix it yet.) And they sometimes offer different answers simultaneously, which makes things even more confusing.

Popup on mobile screen saying “Access to Google Assistant has move” with an explanation.
This is what I got when I hit the mic icon in Search.

To avoid this unfortunate state of affairs, I’ve gotten into the habit of simply tapping the little microphone in the search bar rather than saying “Hey Google.” That way, the phone is the only device responding to my voice command. (And when I’m out in public, it means I don’t have to say the embarrassing phrase “Hey Google” out loud where other people can hear me.)

Which is why I was so irritated when I found that this option was being dropped along with 17 other Assistant features that Google recently decided were “underutilized.”

Whenever a software manufacturer drops a long-term feature — and while Google is one of the most egregious violators here, it certainly isn’t the only one — it invariably claims that the feature was “underutilized,” or not really important, or is being replaced by a much better, if not-quite-the-same app. Sometimes, I wish they’d be honest and say things like, “We’re laying off a bunch of people, including those who were monitoring this particular app” or “We just found out there’s a nasty security problem here and we don’t want to get sued” or “Screw this, we’ve got a shiny new project.”

Of course, the company in question will usually proffer some kind of substitute. For example, when I want to access Google Assistant on my phone, Google suggests that I now say “Hey Google” (just no, for the reason cited above) or long-press the power button.

Except that I’ve got a muscle memory for hitting that damned mic icon, and it’s going to take some time for me to get used to not using it and switch to the power button. To take care of that — at least for now — I’ve moved the Google Assistant icon into the dock on the bottom of my screen, just above where that mic icon is. So when I automatically go to hit the mic, and I remember that I can’t use it to access Google Assistant anymore, I just have to move my thumb up a tiny bit to do what I need to.

Eventually, I know, I’ll get used to it not being there. And after all, this is just a small irritation. Among a mess of others.

Because I also have to figure out what I’m going to use to replace Google Podcasts.