Many were upset when Google Assistant turned out to be a Pixel exclusive. I didn’t love that idea, but I was getting a Pixel anyway. Thankfully Google recently started rolling out Assistant to all Android devices running 6.0 and above. But as is usually the case with Google releases, there’s a catch. Get the pitchforks ready.
Google Assistant isn’t coming to ALL Android devices with Marshmallow. Just phones. No tablets whatsoever (at least not yet). This doesn’t seem to be a fluke either, I’ve done a fair bit of testing and everything I see points to the same miserable conclusion: no Assistant for tablets.
I always use my old Nexus 6 as a small tablet. For that reason I use the custom DPI option in Nougat to run the tablet UI. Yesterday I had to factory reset it and so it was set back to the default DPI setting and phone UI layout. What did I find? Google Assistant was finally on my Nexus 6! Yay! But then I switched the UI back to tablet mode. It was gone. Now On Tap had returned. I switched the DPI back again and Google Assistant graced my old Shamu once more.
Maybe this was just a fluke? Some bug in Lineage OS perhaps? Nope. I tried the inverse on my Pixel C and it was the same story. I switched it to the same DPI as my Pixel XL, (which looked stupid on a big screen) and Assistant started to work! Then I put it back to standard setting – and you can guess where this is going… Now On Tap was back!
The only exception to this behaviour is on the Pixel XL. That does always work, but that’s probably because it’s made for that device and actually baked right into the stock ROM.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this. Google often says they’re going to improve the experience on tablets, but then they almost never do. Once again, Google have seemingly demonstrated a lack of faith in the tablet market.
Not releasing Assistant for tablets may seem like a small thing, but it’s the principle behind this that causes me frustration. The Pixel C in particular really should get Assistant. It is a Pixel device! When the Pixel C arrived Google said it was the best of Google software and hardware. Now just a year after release it feels they’ve gone back on that statement. Is it any wonder that tablet sales are doing so badly when they are given a feature set more limited than our phones?
I could be overreacting. This might just be a bug that will soon be fixed. It could also be that Google are moving their development focus for tablets to Chrome OS (or Andromeda) and so don’t want to double up on effort. But with Google’s history on tablets, I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t either of these reasons.
Regardless of their rationale, let’s hope that this is only temporary and that Assistant will soon make its way to a tablet near you.