Google’s annual I/O developer conference started yesterday and as expected, it made some big announcements with one being that Google Assistant will be launching on iOS as a standalone app starting in the US and then to other markets later. Before the official announcement, rumours of this started flying around that Google was in fact going to make such an announcement. Before now, the only way iPhone users could use the assistant was through Google’s messaging app Allo that as far as we can tell is not widely used as some may want you to believe but by bringing this to the iPhone/iPad as a standalone app, Google is bringing a direct competition to Apple’s Siri on its turf.
You’ll recall back in February when Google announced that it would allow other non-Google devices to start using Google Assistant, well it looks like that decision has paid or at least is paying off seeing as Scott Huffman, vice president of Google Assistant engineering announced that the assistant is now running on over 100 million Android devices. Mr Huffman by way of encouraging developers to start building apps around Google Assistant mentioned that it will support other languages like German, French, Brazilian-Portuguese and Japanese by summer while Spanish and Korean comes at year’s end.
This expansion into Apple territory is just going to increase the number of users of the artificial intelligence tool which some say might be the best out there and they say this because it blends well into the Google ecosystem. So think about it working well Google’s search tool which is still the highest used in the world and imagine the vast amount of information you can get by voice chatting with the assistant.
But that said, it’s still at a disadvantage seeing as it doesn’t own the OS in that Apple’s Siri comes by default when you buy the iPhone and works well with other Apple pre-installed apps but a user would have to go through the process of installing Google Assistant should they choose to use it plus it might take a while for it to start working well with your favourite apps immediately except Google’s apps. While Siri can be triggered from the Home Button, you would have to open the assistant app each time you want to use it.
The assistant is built in by default into Google Pixel, newer Android devices, Android Wear and Google Home and these devices far outnumber Apple’s iPhone and iPads put together. Samsung though wants its users to focus on using its own tool Bixby which looks like it’s off to a slow start as the main voice functionalities were not available at launch time but Samsung says later sprint and that’s there’s little to worry about. Besides, Apple has API restrictions which means third party tools like Google Assistant won’t be able to carry out basic tasks like setting alarms for you but will still be able to play/stop music in third party apps and even send iMessages for you.
We first heard of Google Assistant at last year’s I/O event and now they are extending to iOS at the same event. They also announced the Google Assistant SDK with more to follow on this.
To use the app, you require iOS 9.1 or higher but for those of us outside the US, we would have to wait a bit longer to start using it.