Unlike LG, Nokia and other phone makers, Google doesn't have any formal press event scheduled in advance of this week's Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. But the search giant's presence is looming at the show in the form of its increasing ubiquitous Google Assistant.
The LG G8 ThinQ, announced today (Feb. 24) has a dedicated button for summoning the Google Assistant, as does LG's more budget-minded K40 handset. That's not necessarily a surprise — LG started adding a Google Assistant button to its phones last year with the G7 ThinQ.
But LG's not the only phone maker getting into the act with a dedicated Assistant button. Both the Nokia 4.2 and Nokia 3.2, also announced at a pre-MWC event today, have the feature. So will a lot of phones you're less likely to see reach the U.S., including the newly unveiled Mi Mix 3 5G and Mi Mix 9 as well as devices from Vivo. Add it all up, Google said in an announcement timed to today's phone launches, and there will be more than 100 million devices out there that have their own Google Assistant button.
This is more than just Google flexing its virtual assistant muscle so that rivals like Amazon's Alexa can get a good look. The dedicated Assistant button can actually come in pretty handy, as we discovered last year when reviewing the G7. Some times, you don't want to blurt out "OK, Google" in a crowd, when a simple button press will do.
The button on these phones does more than just summon Google Assistant with a tap. Double press, and a new visual snapshot feature appears with information that's tailored your location, the time of day and recent Assistant interactions. It sounds like a shortcut to frequently-asked queries or contextually relevant actions. A long press of the button lets you dictate to Assistant, which can come in handy if you need to compose a message for either emailing or texting.
The arrival of dedicated Assistant buttons on more smartphones comes a month after Google unveiled new Assistant capabilities at CES, with several features, like checking into flights, designed specifically for phones.