For those who like to “okay, Google” their search queries, the home button has been a well trodden route to voice searching. However, Google has announced that LG, Nokia, TCL, VIVO and Xiaomi are set to launch a range of handsets that will include a dedicated assistant button – following the Bixby assistant button the Galaxy handset range.

Here's what the team at Android said at MWC;

The new buttons are set to launch on the following devices:

  • LG G8 ThinQ
  • LG K40
  • Nokia 3.2
  • Nokia 4.2
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 (5G)
  • Xiaomi Mi 9
  • Vivo V15 Pro
  • And a yet-unannounced TCL handset

Google believes that by the end of 2020, there could be 100 million handsets globally with a functional Google Assistant ‘hot’ button that provides direct and dedicated access to Google Assistant. As voice search popularity grows, Google’s conceptualisation of a physical button (especially as physical buttons are standing to recede from the smartphone experience) is a nod to the changing ways in which smartphone users utilise their handsets and how they use Google search services.

The Hotkey, for example, on LG’s G7 is on the left-hand side below the volume. It allows for quick access to the search function without having to use the home button to double-tap for access to the voice search visual function. This means it will follow the Alexa route by using a physical button to provide a more intuitive experience for voice search users – a focus on minimalist simplicity of function.

Google calls the button experience – the “walkie talkie feature”. This provides a simpler way of engaging with Google Assistant and a more ergonomically simpler way of allowing longer-term use of the Assistant (especially when writing emails, notes or messages).

What can Google learn from Bixby?

Samsung’s mixed experience with Bixby does illustrate how design flaws and a lack of functioning support from third-party apps can make voice-based functionality difficult to muster – even for high-end superphones from Samsung. However, the Google Home family of products intersects nicely with Android’s latest move into physical hotkeys. Google understands that voice could be a major market for the company’s ecosystem (and ad revenue stream).

Google isn’t just relying on external partners either the next-generation Pixel handsets will include the Assistant hotkey. The idea, Google believes, is that by making it easier to a) access Assistant and b) make it more comfortable to use Assistant the company believes more people could be tempted to move away from traditional gesture-driven techniques in favour of voice-based Android functionality.