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article imageGoogle to expand Assistant to more Android devices

By James Walker     Dec 15, 2017 in Technology
Google's announced a significant availability expansion for Assistant. The company's launching the voice-activated AI on a wider selection of Android devices, including tablets and older phones. It comes as the company faces increased competition.
While Assistant is being approached as the future of Google's consumer-facing AI, it's currently still restricted to a handful of devices. In a blog post this week, Google said that will change over the next few weeks as the app rolls out more widely to devices with Google Play Services installed.
Assistant's already broadly available on phones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and higher. It's now also accessible on devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop, launched in 2014. It's being rolled out to users in several regions across the globe, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, India, Mexico and Spain.
The release is being pushed as an opt-in update and it may take some time to reach every device. Once it's installed, the Assistant will appear as an app in Android's app drawer. Launching the Assistant will open the initial setup flow, after which you'll be able to access all the AI's features from its conversational interface.
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It's not too hard to see why Google's decided to backport Assistant to older phones. This month's Android usage figures show just 0.5 percent of users are running the latest 8.0 Oreo version. Only 23.3 percent have Nougat, with 29.7 percent using 2016's Marshmallow release. This still leaves a vast swathe of the Android community with older platform versions that didn't previously have Assistant.
This is a problem for Google as it seeks to increase adoption of the service. The company's coming up against fresh competition from Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri, particularly in the smart home market. Getting consumers familiarised with Assistant on their mobile device will be the first step towards locking them into the full Google AI ecosystem.
"Earlier this year we first brought the Assistant to Android 6.0 Marshmallow and higher with Google Play Services," said Google. "Today, we’re adding Android 5.0 Lollipop to the mix, so even more users can get help from the Google Assistant. So now the question is… what will you ask your Assistant first?"
In addition to the Lollipop launch, Google's also bringing Assistant to tablets for the first time. The app's initially limited to devices with the language set to U.S. English. It will be available on all Android tablets running 6.0 Marshmallow and newer, with an expansion likely to be planned for the future.
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