This Experimental Google Assistant Redesign Is A Throwback

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Google is now testing a complete UI overhaul of at least a portion of its AI-powered Assistant, leading to a look that leans more toward Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich than Android 9 Pie or 'Q'. Initially spotted by a couple of astute Redditors via a subreddit created by user u/SentientKayak and running on a Google Pixel device and reported by 9to5Google on a OnePlus handset, the change does away with the white slide-up card most users see with Assistant.

Instead, when users are long-pressing the pill button or squeezing their Google Pixel handset to launch Assistant, they're seeing a darkened lower segment of their screen slip into place coupled with the words "Hi, I'm listening…" Just below that and harkening back to earlier versions of Android is a slim glowing "light bar," spreading a glow upwards in Google's traditional logo colors.

The words hover just above the lit portion of the screen while other UI elements such as the keyboard and the desk organizer-shaped icon leading to the Google app's Updates page are within the glow below and to either side of the phrase.

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This change is only skin deep

On the surface, the latest test rollout appears as though it would leading to a much bigger change to the UI overall, perhaps taking that back a few generations with a fresh coat of paint. That doesn't appear to be the case at all, however.

Once a user responds to the on-screen query from the AI helper, the white card-like interface that users should already be familiar with slides in from the bottom, clearing away the new look completely. The redesign that might be expected based on Google's Android Q talks at the search giant's I/O Developer Conference earlier this month is nowhere to be found either. That won't likely arrive until Android Q, as planned.

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Google could ultimately abandon this take on the home screen portion of its Assistant AI features, there actually may be a distinct advantage if the company chooses to progress the new UI forward. In its present iteration, the glow of colors looks slightly out of place compared to the rest of the UI but, if that were to be replaced with the currently-used animated color dots, it probably wouldn't.

The white-colored card that ordinarily crops up with Assistant outside of the primary app itself takes up a significant portion of the display, arguably dropping productivity and acting as much as a distraction as a helper. By shifting to a darker, transparent UI, the company could still provide a hint to users that they've activated Assistant without causing that distraction or getting in the way.

A slim chance you'll see this anytime soon

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Most users aren't going to see this change landing anytime soon since it appears to be an A/B testing. Plenty of posters online have noted that it isn't arriving for them despite being on the appropriate version of the Google app — version 9.84.10.21 or later.

In effect, that means there are a narrow set of publicly-unspecified parameters that must be met in order for the update to arrive and that this is a server-side update that applies to that version at the earliest when those are met.

So there's currently no beta installation file to be downloaded or any other method to obtain the updated Assistant UI directly. There's a good chance this change will arrive alongside the other planned changes for Google's AI with Android Q — expected to land in late Summer or early Fall of this year.

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