The Pixel's secret weapon: Google Assistant

Google seems really excited about Google Assistant. We get it. What started as an amazing online knowledge base has transformed from the information pipeline that was Google Now into an intelligent, fully-fledged AI assistant. It certainly took Google long enough — Siri and Cortana have been "friendlier" since their beginnings, though some say they could use a bit of work in the "intelligent" part.

Yes, in a world filled with Alexa and Siri and Cortana and Tay, Google took their time and did it their own way where function trumped form. Google likes to do that a lot.

They're counting on it being one of the key features for the Pixel and Pixel XL. One of those features that will make you think about buying the product it lives on.

It certainly looks compelling. Google Now (but a whole lot smarter) combined with old-style voice actions and a friendly personality is what a lot of people have been asking for. We want the same application that will tell us President Obama's shoe size to help us make appointments and dinner reservations. Why just find the listing for the closest cinema showing a hot new movie when an app can also help you buy your tickets? This is what Google is trying to do with Assistant, and we're ready to let it do these things for us.

Google Assistant looks great now, but it's only going to get better.

There's another trick up Google's sleeve when it comes to Assistant — AI. Artificial Intelligence through machine learning can let an app that has a huge pool of user data to pore through get better at doing the things those users want. Or finding a way to do new things nobody knew we wanted. That's the future of Assistant once it lives on your phone, in your living room, and in your car. The real futuristic stuff to get excited about isn't going to happen right away. But if you want to get in on it at the beginning, you'll have to buy a Pixel.

This exclusivity isn't going to last. It can't. We know that Google Home will also use Assistant, but even then having software that learns from being used on only two niche devices defeats the point of making it aware through AI. Assistant will come to other phones that ship with Android 7.1 (or higher) on them. Google probably has dreams of seeing Assistant on the iPhone, though they know that isn't going to happen anytime soon. More people have to use Assistant for it to get smarter.

Offering it on the Pixel as an exclusive is a pretty big deal, though. The demos and features Google has shown us are things plenty of people won't want to wait for. It's another part of Google's strategy to separate the Pixel and Pixel XL from the rest of the pack.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.