Google I/O 2021 offered a look at the near future when it comes to smartphones, but a useful Android 12 feature flew under the radar during the event. Testers have got their hands on the Android 12 beta, and some interesting changes for the OS have emerged that Google hasn't discussed publicly.
Among them appears to be a way to turn off your phone using Google Assistant, which surfaced during a beta Search app teardown. Saying "Power off" will either take you to the power menu or shut down the device. It's not yet clear which, as 9to5 Google (opens in new tab) points out. Still, Google is giving Android 12 one more party trick that iOS doesn't yet offer.
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The feature seems aligned with the ability to access Assistant using a phone's power button, which Google has confirmed is coming to Android 12 as a baked-in feature. Apple and Samsung have offered a similar option for voice assistants on their devices for some time, so in one sense, Google is playing catch up.
One side effect of using the power button to activate Google Assistant is that it probably won't allow you to switch off your phone as well. It'll be either or, by all indications. However, it seems you'll still have a way to power down your phone physically.
Pressing the volume up button at the same time as the power button should take you to the power menu. That function isn't in the current Android 12 beta, but when it's available, it'll give you the best of both worlds.
It's unclear whether the option to turn off your phone with Google Assistant will be exclusive to Android 12 or Pixel devices. It would be nice to see Google extend the option to older versions of Android, because it's a helpful accessibility feature, especially for people who find it difficult to hold down buttons on phones. If they use "Hey Google" commands to control their phone, they might be able to switch it off completely hands-free.