A Button for the Google Assistant?
Hear me out.
A long while ago I was put on the spot to answer two questions: what is your favourite product and what could you change about it? Now since it was on the spot with no time to think about it, I immediately thought of my current phone, the Google Pixel 4a.
Why is it my favourite product?
I think the Pixel line is Android at it’s peak with respect to design and photography. I could call the Pixel the iPhone of Android. There’s a lot of factors that tech nerds use to compare phones but I think there’s only four important ones. Design, smoothness, photography and battery life in no particular order. This is what matters to an average user and that’s why iPhones are better and are coveted. People should stop coping about iPhones being a status symbol (even if they are). People actually like them because they are a great product.
The things that Apple nails are exactly what Pixel nails. Design, photography and battery life. I won’t go into smoothness because it’s a complex software engineering problem but like a Redditor on the thread I linked said, Pixels are definitely smoother than other Androids. Minus that, Google did an overall good job with the Pixel. But there’s one feature where they beat every other phone fair and square that I feel they don’t prioritise enough; the Google Assistant.
What would I change about the product?
Add a Google Assistant button. I am constantly mind blown by the capabilities of the Google Assistant. An example is when I found out I could search for a song by humming it. I showed this feature to a friend of mine and she remembered a song she knew how to hum but had forgotten the title of. She hummed it and right there it was. If you don’t know the amazing features of the Google Assistant, watch this.
So it’s an amazing feature but here’s one funny thing. There’s no easy access on my Pixel. A feature that’s the second most important on the phone and there’s no way to access it quickly. The most important feature, the camera, can be accessed by double clicking the power button. But the two methods for accessing the Assistant are not really intuitive and are intrusive in my experience. One is to long press the home button if you are using the three button layout for navigation. Easy but is easily forgotten. Two is to swipe up from a bottom corner if you are navigating with gestures. If you use the gesture navigation, very often you forget that the Assistant exists and then one time you mistakenly swipe and there it is. It’s quite intrusive and annoying (although you can turn it off).
A button that’s placed like the iPhone’s silent mode switch would work best imo. Just like the discontinued Bixby button on the Samsung that was loved and hated. Of course there are things to think about like how to prevent it from being intrusive and being turned on randomly (I think this is where Samsung failed). I’d make it a switch just like the iPhone silent mode switch or maybe make it double click or long press to be accessed to avoid single clicks by mistake. I could also have it disabled by default or add the functionality to the power button somehow (but it’s easy to forget about it this way). I mentioned this idea to someone and they mentioned that maybe it wouldn’t have to be a button. It could be like AssistiveTouch on the iPhone. From his idea it also occurred to me that it could be accessed from the Quick Settings menu. There’s lot’s of ways this can be done.
I haven’t thought about the exact design because I’m not a Google employee so I’m not paid to think about this. I’m just toying with design ideas. But if there’s one thing I’m convinced about, it’s that there should be an easier way to access the Assistant. There are Android phones that have had this button before but definitely not the Pixel. I don’t know if Google has considered it. Maybe they have and it didn’t make sense for a certain reason (maybe they watched Samsung’s failure unfold). I do think that if they tried it, they’d design it perfectly.
Thanks for reading through. Any comments are welcome!
Check out my UI/UX design portfolio : https://www.behance.net/matthiasmagambo . Like, comment or share!