Once upon a time in 2016, Google announced their next foray into a connected home and an AI assistant with the Google Home featuring Google Assistant. Google Home was shiny and offered hands-free commands that would work across a crowded room and give us control of our media and services, but they made an even more tantalizing proposition. Google promised that the same AI magic would be available in each of our pockets with Google Assistant, offering the same features and functions as the homebound Google Home.
And at long, long last, they've finally given it to us.
When Google Assistant debuted with the Google Home, the features were quite different between the shiny new home speaker and the phones that it became available on. Google Assistant on phones felt hobbled, with many of the most practical and desired features being reserved for the Google Home.
This was particularly painful with respect to media controls. For a time Google Assistant on phones couldn't even turn on songs or albums the way Google Now had allowed users to do for years. Meanwhile, Google Home allowed users to call up most any song, playlist, or album we wanted, and to not only change tracks but to fast-forward and rewind within tracks, hands-free. I confess that the primary reason for purchasing a Google Home was this media control, which allowed me to control my music while I was in the shower, with Google's voice recognition prowess making out my commands over the sounds of the shower over 90% of the time.
It took far longer than I would've liked, but this control — along with so many other features — has finally made its way to Google Assistant on phones. This is a major feat for Google to produce consistent commands across a wide array of devices, and with that feature parity comes another fun idea: if we all have the same Google Assistant as a Google Home in our pockets, what fun things could we use it to do while we're away from Google's smart little air freshener lookalike?
For instance, Google Home has advertised telling stories to our kids, even going on Disney adventures with Mickey Mouse or Lightning McQueen, but we don't all need or want a Google Home in our kids' bedrooms. Using Google Assistant on phones, we can still take them on adventures and Google can tell them wonderful stories, and even better, we can take it anywhere, from the bedroom to backyard camping to long car rides.
We can ask Google Home about calorie counts and recipes in our kitchen, but with the parity of Google Assistant on phones, we can also ask it about calorie counts while we try to figure out what to order for lunch, or while grocery shopping. Hey, if people can talk on their phones through the whole store, what's wrong with you talking to your phone while you shop?
Now, admittedly, there are still few holdouts here and there. New features, like waking up to music instead of a generic alarm seem to start on Google Home as a test group before coming to other platforms. Think of Google Home as the Google Assistant text bed before features come to millions of phones. That said, Assistant is improving and updating all the time, and these few holdouts will hopefully come around soon.
What Google Home tricks have you enjoyed bringing to your phone? Are you still waiting for more feature parity on watches or Chromebooks? What features are you hoping Google announces for Assistant at Google I/O? Share with us in the comments.