Google Assistant doubles down on mobile at MWC with physical buttons

More phones are launching with dedicated Assistant buttons, and the helper is being added to Android Messages

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Google shared the next steps for the company’s Assistant voice platform.

Primarily the company is more tightly integrating the digital assistant with smartphone hardware.

Starting with the LG G8 ThinQ, Google is partnering with more manufacturers to add physical Assistant buttons to Android devices. Other phones that feature the button include the LG V40 and the Nokia 3.2 and Nokia 4.2 phones. Google’s internal data already says that a physical button helps raise Assistant engagement, so adding dedicated buttons to new phones should help more people use Google Assistant.

Google is hoping via these partnerships that over 100 million devices will launch with an Assistant button.

The button has a few functions, says Google. A single tap brings up the default assistant screen that’s ready for voice commands, and a double tap launches the ‘Visual Snapshot’ screen. This is the screen that predicts what the user wants to see. For example, my Visual Snapshot asks me if I want to use Spotify, shows me the current weather, my upcoming calendar notifications and more.

A long press and hold action makes the assistant record your voice for as long as you’re holding down the button. This is similar to how a microphone works on a walkie-talkie.