Google just announced its Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL this week, bringing with the new phone series an all-new Google Assistant. That's great, except, there's a problem: the new Google Assistant isn't Google Suite-friendly.
That's the word from Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii, who discovered that he couldn't access the new Google Assistant on his brand new Pixel 4. Upon removing his work account (Google Suite), he was able to access it without problems, leading him to believe the new Google Assistant doesn't play nicely with work accounts.
Google Assistant and Google Suite: the source of the problem
What's the reason behind Google Assistant's and Google Suite's incompatibility? There isn't a defect in the device or the software per se, but rather, a decision from Google to exclude Google Suite from Google Assistant integration. As of this April, Google placed Google Assistant/Google Suite integration in beta mode, a move that signals there was no Google Assistant/Google Suite work account integration prior to this Cloud Next 2019 announcement.
And there is proof that Google Assistant/Google Suite integration is new: even the Pixel 2's Google Assistant didn't have G Suite integration. So, the problem between Google's new AI and its work account platform has been present for some time, since Google Assistant (formerly Google Now) was revamped at Google I/O 2016.
At some point in the future, perhaps at Google I/O 2020, Google Assistant and G Suite will finally work together. Or so we hope.
What can the new Pixel 4 Google Assistant do?
For G Suite users waiting for the Assistant/G Suite integration, it's a common question to ask, "What can the new Pixel 4 Google Assistant do?" The new Pixel 4 Google Assistant is said to be ten times faster than the former Google Assistant announced for the Pixel 3 last year. The improvement in speed is made possible by the fact that the new AI does more on-device than in the cloud. The result is that data processing isn't such a heavy task that slows down the Assistant; rather, the new on-device processing speeds things up and delivers faster search results.
Additionally, the new Pixel 4 Assistant is more context-aware than that of the Pixel 3, which means that Assistant can find what you need with few words. If you're looking for photos from your summer vacation, for example, you need only say "search my photos from this summer" and watch the vacation photos appear. Not only does Assistant become more context-aware, but it also becomes a bit more human, understanding that a second statement is tied to the first without having to hear entire sentences to perform needed functions.
G Suite hostility isn't the new Google Assistant's only flaw
Google Assistant is English-only
The new Pixel 4 Google Assistant isn't G Suite-compatible, but that isn't the AI's only flaw. The new Google Assistant is also limited to English at launch, meaning that most interested international buyers won't be able to use it now, if for months. By the time the new Pixel 4 Assistant becomes available, Google could be preparing the launch of its Pixel 5 series — which makes purchasing this year's Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL a waste of money (especially if Assistant is one of the major reasons users buy the Pixel series). Add to this the lack of availability outside the US, and Google has just made the case for why the Pixel will remain out of the top-selling high-end smartphone race in 2020.
Google Assistant is limited to US only
With this flaw, Google is making the case for international shunning of its latest high-end flagships, which isn't a good sign if the whole point of making them in the first place is to reap a profit. Google has had a problem with releasing its Pixels as carrier exclusives. Here in the US, Google's Pixel series has been a carrier exclusive at Verizon since the series' inception in 2016. Now, Google has finally brought its Pixel series to all four major US carriers and even fifth-ranked US Cellular, but is only catering to the US at launch.
It's hard to say why Google isn't bringing the new Assistant to other countries right away, but perhaps Google wants to test the new Assistant's capabilities, speed, and performance in its home country before releasing it internationally. Perhaps Pixel buyers will prove to be the beta testers of the feature before its ready to go abroad. At any rate, Google isn't allowing international buyers to test the English Assistant. Some international phone users in places such as the UK may be familiar with English, but Google isn't concerned with international, English speakers at the moment.
Google Assistant forces gesture navigation on Pixel 4 buyers
Google's new Pixel 4 series is designed with gesture navigation in mind. Project Soli, once a chip in Google's laboratory, is now a hardware chip inside Mountain View's latest smartphones. And with it comes the ability to perform gestures away from the phone and still access information on the device. It's a futuristic move, reminiscent of Samsung's Air View and Air Gesture features found on veteran flagships such as the Galaxy S3 in 2012.
Unfortunately, Google Assistant is tied to this futuristic move, so users either get with the future or get left behind.
That's a problem for Pixel buyers who aren't sold on gestures and would rather just engage their phone in normal ways with — wait for it — normal buttons. Of course, it's fine to have a vision and want your flagship phones to be at the top of that vision, but plays for the future are often polarizing and tend to push some old-fashioned buyers away.
Google's Pixel 4 series may prove to be its best yet, but that doesn't mean everyone will be happy with it. Such is the price companies pay for being visionary in the smartphone market.