Goodbye voice search, hello Google Assistant. The company is swapping out the familiar blue and red mic in favor of its Assistant on the home screen of Android handsets. The news was first reported by 9to5google.
After seeing the report, I turned on my Pixel XL this morning and there it was. We’ve asked Google for more context but it’s relatively clear that the company is seeking to replace basic speech-to-text voice recognition with the greater capabilities of the Assistant.
Assistant part of Google’s new AI-first approach. At Google’s developer conference in 2017, CEO Sundar Pichai declared the company was shifting its orientation from “mobile-first” to “AI-first.” The difference is the multi-platform emphasis and the expanding capabilities of the Assistant, which is more conversational, and potentially transactional, (e.g. Duplex) than ordinary search.
Google Assistant instead of voice-search mic
The conventional “voice search” blue and red mic still appears to be accessible on Chrome for Android and on the Google app and Chrome browser for iOS. It’s likely, however, that the Assistant will eventually take over across the board. It’s unclear when Google might integrate the Assistant directly into the Google app for iOS.
Leading with the Assistant. Google previously announced that its Assistant resides on one billion devices. More than search, the Assistant is now Google’s “marquee” product, which spans devices and platforms. Google sees the Assistant and its cross-device ecosystem as a long-term competitive advantage over rivals.
Why we should care. The Assistant tries to provide “answers” and, increasingly, rich visual information rather than a list of links or conventional search results. Any distinction between the Assistant and what we might call “traditional mobile search results” will probably disappear in the relatively near future.
A recent study from Adobe found that 48% of consumers are using voice for “general web searches.” Those numbers will be going up as the Assistant gradually becomes the primary way that people access information on mobile devices.