Apple is holding Google Assistant back on the iPhone

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 1 min read

The above tweet struck a cord with me as I too have not really used the Google Assistant app on my iPhone all that much since I eagerly installed it a few weeks ago. Looking through my chat history with it, it looks like I've done 18 total actions with it (outside of the couple dozen I did for my comparison video). Considering Assistant was released on May 18th, that means I've done an average of 1.38 queries per day in the app. That's pretty terrible engagement.

And it's not like I'm not trying to use it, it's on my home screen in it's own little row to remind me it's there. And it's not because I don't think it's a good assistant, I use Android phone as well and am more than familiar with what Assistant can do. I'm just not drawn to it.

My theory as to what is happening is that the convenience of Siri's system-level integration more than makes up for Google's slightly better answers and voice recognition. Yeah, I could unlock my phone, open the Assistant app, and ask my question, but it's easier to raise my wrist and ask my watch without any of that hassle. Or I can just say "Hey Siri" and ask away. Or I can tap my AirPods and ask there. You get it…

If I had to put a number on it I'd say Google Assistant is probably 15-20% better than Siri, but it's half as convenient to use. And while Apple fans may say this is why Siri will always be better, that's a pretty weak argument. Apple's job is to make a platform that empowers developers, and overall they do well in this regard, but I would love to see iOS gain some hooks for apps like Assistant to tap into. How awesome would it be if I could say "Ok Google" to trigger the Assistant app?

Put another way, how would you feel about using your Mac and had to use Spotlight only. Alfred and LaunchBar are relegated to apps you need to access from the dock. Ugh, that sounds miserable, but it's the state of alternative assistants on iOS today.