What you need to know
- The microphone icon, which is found in the search bar on the Pixel Launcher home screen, has now been re-mapped.
- The change was announced earlier this month alongside the removal of 17 features in Google Assistant.
- The microphone button was previously a Google Assistant shortcut. Now, it will respond to questions with Google Search results.
It's never exciting to see a product or app lose functionality rather than gain it, but that's what is happening with Google Assistant. Earlier this month, Google announced that it would be removing 17 "underutilized" features from Assistant. The move came amidst a flurry of layoffs, which have since been confirmed to continue.
The purge of features is now beginning, and Pixel Launcher users will notice that the microphone icon in the search bar no longer triggers Assistant (via 9to5Google). The conversion of this icon's purpose from serving as a Google Assistant shortcut to a Google Search tool is now "rolling out," for lack of a better phrase.
For what it's worth, Google does not see this change as the removal of a feature. Instead, the company said in a blog post that the shift was intended to create "a more consistent experience. Google also said that the most popular use case for the microphone icon is to get Google Search results, so perhaps the removal of the Assistant shortcut will benefit some users.
Officially, the microphone icon in the search bar in the Pixel Launcher will now activate Voice Search. You can ask Google a question, and it will respond with results from Search.
However, activating the Google Assistant may be slower in some cases following the shortcut's removal. You can still trigger Assistant by saying "Hey Google" or by long-pressing the home or power buttons. Completing certain actions that require a voice assistant might be more difficult, though, especially if you aren't in the position to say, "Hey, Google."
The good thing is that Google is actively communicating the change to users. After a user has received the update to re-map the microphone icon, they will be greeted with a pop-up that explains what's new. "Access to Google Assistant has moved," the message reads. "The microphone button on the search bar now opens Google Voice Search instead of Assistant."
A potential concern is that many users have muscle memory from using Assistant through Pixel Launcher for years, which may cause some frustration as they adjust. This is the first major change, likely of many, that comes in advance of Google's overhaul of Assistant as it integrates Bard and AI.
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Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.