Google plans deeper Assistant integration with phones and wireless carriers

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Google is announcing a bunch of forthcoming updates to Assistant today, but one arrives much sooner than the others: routines, a feature announced back in October that’ll allow Assistant to perform multiple actions at once from a single command you set up ahead of time. It’s a simple concept, but it should be a handy addition for people with lots of smart home gadgets. Google says it’ll be rolling out over the “coming weeks.”

The other two announcements being made today will arrive throughout the year: deeper integration between the Assistant and both smartphones and carriers. The first may sound strange — Assistant is already integrated into your phone, after all — but it isn’t yet closely integrated with the specific hardware and software of every device. So in the future, you might be able to say, “Hey Google, launch my camera’s augmented reality mode,” and it’ll open up straight to that feature.

Google is working with Android phone makers to let them add this kind of specific support to their devices. At first, it’ll only be for camera features, but the company imagines it’ll expand to pretty much whatever else its hardware partners can think of. With some phone manufacturers pushing their own smart assistants, it’s possible that not everyone will jump on board with this, but the ability sounds like it should be handy where it’s supported. The first partners will include LG, Sony, and Xiaomi.

In addition to phone manufacturers, Google is also working with wireless carriers to integrate their services with Assistant. At a basic level, it’ll mean letting you check how much data is left on your monthly allotment or even letting you add more data or entirely change your plan. The integration could get deeper, too: Nick Fox, the product lead for Assistant, says Google could support carriers with triple play packages by integrating with things like DVRs, so you can set them to record from your phone.

It’s not clear how much of that will arrive in the near future — it’s not even clear when the first features will launch — but Google says it’s working with carriers to build it out and indicates that those it’s working with are supportive. Fox says this isn’t comparable to built-in carrier apps. Instead, it’s supposed to be a way to interact with those services without having to install something. The first partners include Sprint, Koodo, Telus, and Vodafone.

At least initially, carrier integration won’t be perfectly natural. It’ll basically be like any other third-party action: you’ll have to say something along the lines of, “Hey Google, ask Sprint how much data I have left,” rather than simply being able to ask “how many minutes do I have left?” and your phone automatically knowing you’re on Sprint thanks to your SIM card. It’s kind of odd, because carriers could build these features out themselves if they wanted to, but Google seems to be either doing it for them or closely working with them to make it happen. Either way, these are features that seem helpful to have built in, and I can certainly imagine checking my data plan more often if I could just ask.

In addition to these features, Google also announced some major language upgrades for the Assistant today. It’ll expand to 30 languages by the end of the year, and it’ll eventually be able to automatically detect what language you’re speaking.

Correction February 23rd, 11:25AM ET: Google clarified that the routines feature will begin rolling out in “the coming weeks,” not today.


Of course routines decided to arrive the week after I decided to give up waiting, and figured out how to set up Stringify. You are welcome everybody!

You did it!

Don’t get too excited "in the coming weeks" according to the official post.

Could be useful if they processed the commands on the device. I will not use any Google service that collects data from me.

There isn’t a single service out there that doesn’t collect telemetry data. Good luck, I guess!

apple is sending all the data to india to TCS and all other indian out sourcers. atleast google keeps it secure and inhouse

I would love to see a source for this…

Your loss…

Wow! I predicted this a month ago! Amazon has no chance of succeeding on a global scale.

Will the Verge be doing a ‘how to’ on the Google home now that routines are out?

Tangential to Assistant, but I just got the new Google Pay interface on my phone… And it’s worse than Android Pay’s was. Yippee.

There’s no way to re-order loyalty cards any more, and the most recently used card doesn’t stay open at the top of the list. It’s also gone from, like, one tap to bring up a card, to three.

I know this all sounds pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, ’cause it is, but still: I generally prefer it when the services I use get better over time, not worse.

How about they first focus on bringing feature parity to Assistant from Now on Tap. Pretty frustrating they still don’t have the ability to select text on the screen for instances when selecting text normally is not allowed/possible. And it’s frustrating they still don’t offer to create calendar events when you do ‘whats on my screen’. Google Now on Tap did both of these things very well but when they forced us into using Assistant both of these features disappeared. I mean, how hard is it for this ‘amazing AI Assistant’ to suggest creating a calendar event when you have it scan your screen that is showing a sporting event (Google App) with the date and time right there on the screen? This ‘Assistant’ is pretty worthless in my opinion. And on top of it all, over the last 8-10 months Assistant has become extremely slow to launch and process any action on either of our Pixel phones, one of which was replaced recently so is essentially a brand new/not bogged down device.

Very deep

Look at the list of first partners, how is the Pixel exclusive to Verizon in markets they don’t operate?

pixel 2 is unlocked works on all networks in the US.
target has a 300GC + 5% red card discount
u have to sign to vz but if u cancel it within 3days take it anywhere
only problem is u have to pay the phone upfront in full

And that’s still a "Verizon" Pixel 2, so you get to enjoy the locked bootloader…

Your argument does not have a thing to do with the fact that there’s an exclusivity deal in place here. Google definitely needs to get rid of the deal, and instead get in with Best Buy, Target, Amazon, etc, directly, without dealing with any carrier. They can make the phones available for purchase to carriers as well, but that’s it. There’s already a system in place that lets the carriers install specific apps during setup on the network, that’s good enough.

and instead get in with Best Buy, Target, Amazon, etc, directly, without dealing with any carrier.

Not sure I agree. Most Americans choose to buy the phone with a financing plan through the carriers. Not including them only leaves financing options through Google and I imagine people being turned off by the required credit check (carrier financing does not include a credit check).

In my experience a lot of store reps are partial to Android. If Google gets their phone available on all carriers and includes thorough training and maybe some incentive (Nokia did this hardcore back in 2012 when I worked for at&t. They did not pay more commission but had raffles and such when you sold x amount) I think they would see a huge increase in sales.

You would be surprised how many people walk into a carrier store and ask the sos guy what phone they should buy.

Deep integration just like Bixby.

And with this, Bixby’s last excuse for existing is erased.

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