Google Assistant Jumps into Samsung TVs, But Bixby Isn’t Going Anywhere
Google Assistant is now a part of the latest Samsung smart TVs, accessible by the microphone in the remote control. Google Assistant joins Samsung’s own Bixby as an option for controlling the television, but the native voice assistant is still the default, despite rumors of its demise this summer.
Google Assistant performs on Samsung smart TVs much as it does with the Chromecast voice remote. Holding down the microphone button alerts the voice assistant to new commands, and users can adjust channels, volume, and playback. Much like Chromecast, or like Alexa on a Fire TV, Google Assistant can open apps for streaming services, and the AI can connect to a Nest smart home system in the home, allowing users to control lights and other devices by voice through the television. The voice assistant can also offer recommendations for things to watch based on genre, performer, or other aspects of a show or movie. Only seven Samsung smart TVs now include Google Assistant, including the 8K and 4K QLED sets. The voice assistant is only available on those televisions in the U.S. for now, although Samsung is planning geographic expansion.
Bixby is still the default voice assistant on the televisions, however. Users who want Google Assistant have to choose it from the settings menu on the TV. And Alexa has been an option for controlling Samsung smart TVs since the beginning of the year. The meetings that sparked rumors about Samsung dropping Bixby in favor of Google Assistant may be unrelated to the television partnership, but, notably, Samsung is willing to accommodate Google, a more direct rival than Amazon in many ways, on bringing Google Assistant to its smart TVs. Still, it’s clear that Google, while no doubt happy about the arrangement, sees it as just one facet of its strategy in conquering the overall smart home space.
“As more people discover the helpfulness of a smart home, we continue to work with our partners to bring the best of the Assistant experience to your favorite devices,” Google director of product management Jack Krawczyk wrote in a blog post announcing the news. “Over the last few weeks, we’ve worked with some of the most popular brands to introduce new devices with Google Assistant that you can try out today.”
Google revealed the Samsung partnership as part of a larger roundup on new ways to talk to Google Assistant. Along with the televisions, Google shared that the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential, first announced in August, is now for sale. An updated, smaller version of the Lenovo Smart Clock from last year, the Essential doesn’t have a touchscreen but is similarly powered by Google Assistant. The clock costs only $50 compared to the $80 initial price tag on the earlier iteration. It serves mainly to bring Google Assistant into new spaces in a home.
Google also confirmed that Google Assistant will arrive on the Fitbit Sense and Versa 3 this winter. When the devices came out in August, Fitbit said the voice assistant would arrive at some point this year, so Google appears to be confirming that timeline. Right now, the only voice assistant accessible on the devices is Amazon Alexa. The Sense and Versa 3 can probably only host one voice assistant at a time, so wearers will have to choose between the two as and when Google Assistant becomes an option. That may depend on when Google officially closes the nearly year-long $1.2 billion acquisition of Fitbit.