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After all this time, millions of Android phones are finally getting Google Assistant

Zach Epstein
December 14th, 2017 at 7:33 AM
Google Assistant Android Lollipop

You might not know it, but Google’s Android platform kinda sorta has a teeny-weeny little problem: at any given time, almost no one has access to exciting new Android features because almost no one has access to the latest version of Android. Okay, so maybe you’ve heard about Android fragmentation once or twice before.

Google’s Android platform version distribution data was just updated this week, and it paints a painfully sad picture of the current state of Android. According to Google’s own data, only 0.5% of active Android devices are running the most recent version of Android called Oreo. The most widely used version at 29.7% is Android Marshmallow… which was released more than two years ago in October 2015. Coming in close behind in the No. 2 spot with 26.3% is Android Lollipop, which is now more than three years old.

That’s just crazy, of course, and we’ve gone over why it’s so bad for users at least a dozen times. Today, however, we have some great news for the hundreds of millions of people out there with Android devices that run Lollipop: You finally have access to one of Google’s best creations.

Google Assistant was first unveiled in May 2016. This week, after more than a year and a half, Google is finally bringing it to the Android Lollipop platform. It seems odd to celebrate a 19-month-old product heading to a 2-year-old platform, but this is the state of affairs with Google’s mobile platform.

The rise of voice-powered virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri assistant led Google to create its own offering, which is arguably the best among them. This makes sense, of course, because Google is a wealth of data. Google Assistant can do just about everything rival solutions are capable of, and then some. Now, this great product is finally rolling out to Android Lollipop.

“Earlier this year we first brought the Assistant to Android 6.0 Marshmallow and higher with Google Play Services,” Google Assistant program manager Maksim Mukha wrote in a post on Google’s Assistant blog. “Today, we’re adding Android 5.0 Lollipop to the mix, so even more users can get help from the Google Assistant.”

He continued, “The Google Assistant on Android 5.0 Lollipop has started to roll out [to] users with the language set to English in the U.S., UK, India, Australia, Canada and Singapore, as well as in Spanish in the U.S., Mexico and Spain. It’s also rolling out to users in Italy, Japan, Germany, Brazil and Korea. Once you get the update and opt-in, you’ll see an Assistant app icon in your ‘All apps’ list.”

Mukha also noted that Assistant will begin rolling out to Android tablets in the US beginning next week. Alexa is a main selling point for Amazon’s Fire tablet lineup, so this will be a welcome feature for Android tablet owners.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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