At CES 2019, Google kicked off the year with a slew of Assistant announcements like handling flight check-ins and hotel bookings. Google Assistant is now rolling out a revamped phone interface that places controls and buttons closely together.
This redesign has been in testing for the several weeks and focuses on placing Google Lens, voice search, and keyboard entry right next to each other at the center of the screen. Before this navigation pill, the shortcut to open the Lens viewfinder was at the far-left and keyboard input at the right.
The bottom edge of the screen is still the most reachable location even after the last major Assistant UI revamp on phones shrunk the panel’s height. Replacing Google Lens at the left is Updates, which opens the Assistant organizer for your day, while Explore — to find new Assistant apps — is at the right. The Google Now-like successor can still be accessed by swiping up on the entire Assistant panel.
These two controls were previously at the top-right corner of the panel or, when Assistant was fullscreen, at the very top. Now, all Assistant controls are located in the bottom row and immediately accessible.
However, there are some issues with this design, especially when keyboard entry is selected as the Prefered input method. A tappable text field is at the bottom, and the microphone is now at the right. Users are not able to access Lens without first swiping up and getting the control pill to appear.
A similar issue arrises if voice is the default input as a long press of Android’s home button, “Hey Google” hotword, or squeeze of the Pixel 3 has Assistant immediately start listening for a command. The four Google dots appear as a visual confirmation, thus replacing the control pill. As seen in third screenshot above, users have to first cancel the microphone before accessing Lens or the keyboard.
In the grand scheme, these new compact controls appear on every Assistant interface and is convenient during those use cases.
This Google Assistant redesign is more widely rolling out today with the latest stable version (8.91) of the Google app. Meanwhile, Google app 9.0 — which is still in beta — introduces rounded corners for the Assistant panel. This should be available with the next public release.