As a part of the google Assistant feature cuts that we just talked about, Google also announced that it is nerfing the voice button in the Search bar on android phones, including on Pixel devices. Well, it could be a nerf to some and an improvement for others.
The change is pretty straight-forward – the Google voice button on the Google Search bar is no longer for Assistant and will instead just search through Google Search. I'm talking about the voice search icon you see in the image at the top of this post, for those confused.
What's different about Assistant vs. Search in this scenario? For one, you can no longer tap that icon and ask the Assistant to do things. No more turning your lights off, adjusting your temperature, or setting a timer by tapping on that icon. Now, it'll simply search Google. It's a voice search action now, not an Assistant action.
Why would Google do this? In a short blog post, they mentioned that using this voice icon to trigger Search results is the “most popular use case.” In other words, they found people wanting to search Google with that button instead of activating Assistant.
Speaking from my own usage, I tend to follow that reasoning. I tend to search Google for items with my voice now and even use Google Search far more than Assistant in general. I am not such a fan of Google Assistant these days. It seems so broken or slow or confused or impossible to use or something. I can't quite put my finger on what happened to it, but I use it less and less, especially from my phone. Even my smart displays get used less and less because I don't trust that Assistant will work as I need it to.
Google Assistant isn't going away, by the way, you just have to launch it in other ways. You can swipe from the bottom corners of most phones, tap the Assistant app/icon in your app drawer, long-press the power button if you have that active, or shout “Hey Google!” whenever. The only real change here is that easy-to-access shortcut on the Google Search bar on your home screen.
For Google Pixel owners, this change should already be rolling out to your Pixel Launcher. I can tell you that my Pixel 8 Pro pictured above no longer launches Assistant with the voice button and does indeed activate a voice search.
Really curious on your thoughts here.