Google Assistant: The Way Forward

Subscribe To Download This Insight

2Q 2017 | IN-4555

Google decided to roll out its AI Google Assistant on new Android smartphones but not on tablets.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.


Artificial Intelligence


Google Assistant is described as an intelligent personal assistant and unlike its predecessor Google Now, it can actually engage the user in two-way conversations. Although initially deployed exclusively on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, Google Assistant is now becoming available on all Android Marshmallow and Nougat phones with Google Play services. While Apple customers are able to use Siri on both their iPhones and iPads, Android customers will find Google Assistant available on their latest smartphones but missing on their tablets. Voice artificial intelligence (AI) is an additional feature, one that is likely to gain immense interest moving forward. Restricting its deployment to smartphones alone is ultimately a business decision for Google. 

Google Assistant Available on Android Smartphones but Not Android Tablets


According to ABI Research, of the 116 million tablets forecast to be shipped in 2017, 31% will be Apple iPad variants, while 59% will be Android tablets, representing roughly 37 million units and 69 million units respectively. Based on current information, Google Assistant will not be made available on Android tablets. Instead, it will be deployed progressively on most of the 1.4 billion Android smartphones forecast to be shipped in 2017. Potential buyers of an Android tablet seeking an AI feature may be a little disappointed, and they will have to wait for further updates or switch over completely to an Apple iPad, based on their need and budget.   



Google made an important strategic choice to deploy Google Assistant on Android smartphones and not on tablets. This is driven by functionality to begin with, as Google Assistant needs to access and process as much information as possible about the user to offer useful suggestions and provide reliable solutions. This includes information on behavior and preferences, as well as location tracking from GPS history. This information is more easily sourced from a smartphone, which is normally taken everywhere by the user. Although tablets can also track location, they may not be taken everywhere by the user or used as extensively. From that perspective, it makes sense to have the AI on a smartphone, where it is able to gather the data necessary to serve the user more effectively. There is also an underlying assumption here that a user may have a need to interact more with AI to obtain information while “on the go”, such as inquiring about weather/routes when driving or getting retail information when in a mall. “On the go” users in urgent need of information are more likely to turn to their smartphones.       

Scale appears to be another driver in this decision. Clearly, deploying the AI assistant progressively on most of the 1.4 billion Android smartphones forecast to be shipped this year versus the 69 million tablets, is expected to deliver significant scale and reach. Google would prefer its AI be used by a substantial user base, as this may facilitate the flow of timely feedback, trends, and data analytics (Big Data) that can be used to improve Google Assistant moving forward. New versions of Google Assistant with bug fixes can then be offered in later releases.    

Market dynamics may be a factor restricting Google Assistant to smartphones. According to ABI Research forecasts, global tablet shipments are expected to shrink from 116 million units in 2017 to 98 million units in 2020 due to slower replacement cycles and general market saturation, in particular. Conversely, global smartphone demand appears to be more resilient, with expected overall shipments in 2017 exceeding 1.6 billion and surging to nearly 1.9 billion by 2020. Clearly, this would mean a growing base of Android smartphone users with Google Assistant. 

Functionality, scale, and market dynamics are just some of the key business drivers in the decision to retain deployment of Google Assistant solely within Android smartphones until further notice. It is yet to be clarified whether or not this decision is also driven by technical reasons. Indeed, Google may review this decision and move to deploy Google Assistant on tablets at a later date or may even deploy a customized tablet version, especially as LTE-enabled tablets gain traction. Alternatively, some tablet manufacturers may in fact choose to install their own proprietary AI on some of their tablets as a premium feature for potential buyers, such as Samsung Bixby or Amazon’s Alexa.  


Companies Mentioned