A new beta version of the Google app suggests that upcoming devices could include an Assistant hardware button. The reveal, found in version 7.21 of the app, further shows Google’s seriousness when it comes to putting the Assistant front and centre in everything the company does.
Several strings of code were found during an APK tear down of the beta software. The source code included:
<string name="opa_hardware_button_training_desc_fallback">Tap the Assistant button to launch it at any time</string>
<string name="opa_hardware_button_training_switch_title">Add the Google Assistant to your homescreen.</string>
<string name="opa_hardware_button_training_title">Your Assistant is a tap away</string>
There is also a graphic within the source code that would be displayed if “error_hardware_button_training” is called.
Aside from the hardware button, the APK also includes code pertaining to setting a default speaker or television. This will be very helpful for those buying multiple devices for their Google Home network.
The move definitely looks inspired from Samsung, with the South Korean giant incorporating a button on its flagship devices to invoke the Bixby assistant. With that said, if the implementation isn't done well, then adding a hardware button could be quite negative. Google isn’t exactly known for keeping brand names the same and could at some point end up renaming Assistant, which already grew out of Google Now. Slapping a button on a device with a nice Google Assistant logo, only for the logo to be changed down the line, isn’t going to look too good; it’s sort of reminiscent of the HTC ChaCha and Salsa, that launched at the turn of the decade with... Facebook buttons.