In the past year, Google Assistant has really been growing, in terms of devices and active users. It has also added a ton of new features, which has helped Google gain more active users. Now, Google Assistant is crossing the one billion mark this month, which is about ten times the number of devices than Amazon Alexa has. That's no small feat, but it's also not surprising. You see, Google Assistant is on virtually everything, and that momentum isn't stopping anytime soon. Of course, the major catalyst here is the fact that Google Assistant is available on every single Android smartphone that has Google services included (read: except China).
Google Assistant on everything
Google has been working with virtually every company on the face of the earth, to get the Google Assistant onto their products. And it has worked pretty well for Google. While it started out as being available on your smartphone and on smart speakers, we have seen the Google Assistant pop up on other products as well. Including some new car products like the JBL LINK Drive that was announced today at CES 2019. It's a small adapter that you plug into your car and essentially gives you a Google Home for your vehicle. We've also seen Google bring the Assistant to Chromebooks, and it is available on headphones, smart displays and so much more. Virtually everywhere you look, the Google Assistant is there.
Why put Google Assistant on everything? It's simple. By putting Google Assistant everywhere, it is going to get more people interested in using the Google Assistant for everything. Whether that is a simple timer for cooking, looking up a recipe, asking for score of the game or the weather, and everything in between. Using the Google Assistant more is what Google wants. Though it has yet to figure out a way to monetize the Google Assistant, that is likely coming in the near future.
Active users have "quadrupled" in the past year
Another reason for Google Assistant's success in hitting 1 billion devices well before Alexa, is the fact that it has been able to get its active users numbers up in the past year. It has reportedly quadrupled in the past year, though Google has not mentioned any concrete numbers on the matter. Active users are categorized as those that use the Google Assistant at least once in a pre-determined time period, usually a week or a month. Without active users, your platform is essentially pointless and dead – just ask Google+. The main reason for its active users growing so much in the past year? All of the new features that Google have rolled out to the Google Assistant and devices running the Assistant. In the past year, it has rolled out features like Broadcast, allowing you to use the Assistant and its products as an intercom in your home. It has also rolled out a redesigned smart home control for smart displays and the Google Home app on your smartphone. This makes it much easier to control your smart home products, even if you don't want to use your voice. As well as many other features, and it also launched in many more countries in the past year.
Google Assistant has doubled its devices in just eight months
Back in May, Google Assistant had crossed the 500 million mark, and now less than eight months later, it has doubled that number to one billion devices. Now when Google categorizes Assistant devices, it is talking about everything from smartphones, to speakers, to smart displays and even smart home products. And given the number of different products out there, it's not surprising that it will hit one billion pretty easily. How did Google beat Amazon to this number? Well, Google Assistant is available on smartphones, Amazon Alexa is available on some smartphones. That gives the Google Assistant a pretty sizable lead over Amazon Alexa, and as we can see now, that's about ten times the amount of devices that Amazon Alexa has.
Another big part of this success for Google has been how much it has been pushing the Assistant lately. Last year at CES, it had a massive presence with a huge "playground" outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center where it was showing off different Google Assistant devices, but also how the Google Assistant can work with these devices and do things for you every day. This year is no different. Google Assistant has a massive presence again, and has a ton of new products announced – with many more likely before the week is over.
What's next for Google Assistant?
The Verge was able to speak with the VP of Google Assistant, Manuel Bronstein at CES this week, and he mentioned that the next big frontier is going to be feature phones. In 2019, many wouldn't think that feature phones still exist, but they do. There are hundreds of millions of feature phones still being bought every single year. This is mostly in emerging markets like Africa and India, but they are still being sold. Bronstein mentioned that trying to communicate on a feature phone is not as simple as on a smartphone. One instance is text messaging. There's no touchscreen and there is no physical keyboard available, so texting on a T9 keyboard can be very cumbersome and difficult. But the Google Assistant can solve that issue for many, by using Google's advanced voice recognition technology.
Bronstein didn't just say that the next frontier for the Assistant is feature phones, but he also mentioned when that is going to begin – at Mobile World Congress next month in Barcelona. It makes sense for that announcement to come at MWC rather than CES, seeing as that is more of a mobile-focused tradeshow, whereas CES is more of a tech-focused trade-show. Bronstein was careful not to say that Assistant would roll out on feature phones after Mobile World Congress, only stating that they will begin talking about it in Barcelona next month. Google still needs to figure out how it can implement the Assistant on those feature phones, since many don't get OTA's like a smartphone would.