Google’s push to put the Google Assistant everywhere continues. The company’s voice search interface exists on phones, watches, TVs, cars, and in standalone smart speakers, but the company has never done a great job of capturing the entire 2 billion-strong Android market. The Assistant originally launched on a single phone, the Google Pixel, and has slowly been creeping across the Android landscape.
Now the Assistant is coming to even more Android devices. Google announced the voice assistant is coming to older phones running Android 5.0 Lollipop and up. This is a big bump over the old rollout, which only included Android 6.0 Marshmallow and up. According to the Google Play active user stats, Lollipop compatibility will add another 26 percent of Android’s install base to the Assistant’s reach.
That number doesn’t include Android tablets, which until now haven’t really had access to the Assistant at all. The lone exceptions were “Google” branded tablets like the Google Pixel C and the Google Pixelbook. Now the Assistant is finally coming to Android tablets too, but only for those with the language set to English.
The 5.0-implementation of the Assistant sounds like it won’t quite be at the fingertips of users the way it is on a newer phone. Google says that “Once you get the update and opt-in, you’ll see an Assistant app icon in your ‘All apps’ list.” On more modern phones, the Assistant can be brought up by holding down the home button, or by saying “Ok Google” while the screen is on. It sounds like older devices won’t get this functionality.
Android’s version fragmentation often makes reaching a majority of users a challenge, but covering Android 5.0 and up accounts for 80 percent of the active Android install base. It sounds like Google isn’t quite going to hit this level of saturation, though, since the Assistant is limited by language and country. Google’s blog post has a lengthy list of rollout caveats, saying, “The Google Assistant on Android 5.0 Lollipop has started to roll out to users with the language set to English in the US, UK, India, Australia, Canada and Singapore, as well as in Spanish in the US, Mexico and Spain. It’s also rolling out to users in Italy, Japan, Germany, Brazil and Korea.”