Five months after introducing its digital assistant, Google is sharing the feature with Android partners, hoping the service can boost its odds to win customers from Apple’s iPhone.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google is making its intelligent assistant — a service that answers queries, plays music and completes tasks — available for smartphones using the two newest versions of its Android software. It’s showcasing the service with a closer partnership with LG Electronics at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where LG and a slew of hardware manufacturers aim to make a splash ahead of the iPhone’s 10th anniversary later this year.
Until now, Google’s Pixel smartphone, introduced in October, has been the only handset with the company’s automated assistant. Gummi Hafsteinsson, the product lead for the assistant, said exclusivity was required to refine the system, a key priority at the company.
“It was a new product and we wanted to make sure we took the baby steps required,” he said.
Investment bank Evercore ISI estimates that Google shipped 552,000 Pixel phones in the fourth quarter last year in addition to 500,000 Google Home speakers, another device that already runs the assistant service, making the current accessibility to Google Assistant slim compared with competitors like Apple’s Siri and Amazon.com’s Alexa.
By adding the assistant to Android devices, which researcher IDC estimates make up 85% of all global smartphones, Google is moving closer to its goal of expanding the use of the feature.
The virtual assistant will reach about one-third of Android phones, including the new devices rolled out yesterday by LG and others, that use Google’s latest software, according to the company.
“We obviously would want to provide it to every device in the world,” Mr Hafsteinsson added.
Android phones that run Google’s Play store services will now have access to the assistant, which can be summoned through a voice command (“OK, Google”) or the phone’s home screen. But Google is working more intimately with LG. On Sunday in Barcelona, LG unveiled its latest phone, the G6, with the Google Assistant.
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