Why it matters to you
Your current Android phone likely can run the highlight feature of Google’s flagship Pixel smartphone.
Google’s biggest announcement at Mobile World Congress so far: its artificially intelligent Assistant is now available on smartphones running Android Marshmallow and Nougat — phones like the one you’re holding right now.
Assistant lets users perform certain actions with their voice by saying “OK Google,” or by pressing and holding the home button. You can ask it about your upcoming day — and Assistant will recite your calendar events, the weather, and even put on a podcast of your choice — or you can use it to control your smart home devices. It can make quick translations, find the nearest restaurant, pull up your flight information, and a whole lot more. It’s conversational and it understands contextual search so you don’t need to repeat queries or commands more than once.
More: Google Assistant adds another 10 skills, including a virtual sommelier
Assistant originally debuted last fall in Google’s messaging app, Allo. It then went on to be a prominent feature of the Google Pixel, the company’s first phone “made by Google,” and it’s also what powers Google Home, an Amazon Echo competitor. It’s also available now on Android Wear, and it’s heading to Android Auto as well as Android TV.
Android smartphones running Marshmallow or Nougat — basically version 6.0 or higher — will now be able to use Assistant. But the best part is you won’t have to wait for a version update from Google or your device manufacturer, which would have taken months to roll out. Instead, version 6.13 or higher of the Google app will bring Assistant functionality.
There are rules governing which devices are eligible to utilize Assistant, though. Specifically, you’ll need to have Google Play Services installed, so phones in China will not be able to utilize Assistant. Secondly, your device will need to have at least 1.5GB of RAM, and a 720p or higher screen resolution.
More: Make the most out of Google with this list of ‘OK, Google’ voice commands
The first smartphone since the Pixel to come packaged with Google Assistant will be LG’s G6, which you can read more about here. The Google app update with Assistant will begin rolling out this week in the U.S., and it will be followed in Australia, Canada, and the U.K. It will also come to users in Germany afterwards. More language support will come over the course of the year.
We’ll stop by Google’s “Android Global Village” at MWC to check out existing HTC, Huawei, Samsung, and Sony smartphones with the Google Assistant to see how well it works.