The real problem with Google’s new Gemini Android assistant

I’ll be honest: I was really hoping for an “aha!” moment over these past few days.

Ever since Google made it clear that it was working to bring its next-gen generative AI chatbot into Android as a replacement for Google Assistant, I’ve been skeptical. And ever since I installed the new standalone Gemini Android app and allowed it to take over my phone’s assistant function, that initial skepticism has only grown into a grumbling sense of us being ushered in the wrong direction.

Now, let’s be clear: None of this is to say that Google Assistant in its current form is perfect — far from it! We’ve been talking for years now about gaps in Assistant’s advancements and ways the service could be made better. And lately in particular, it’s felt like Google’s been neglecting Assistant as it turns its focus to its shiny new buzzword-boosting toy.

Still, despite its shortcomings, Assistant knew what it was all about. It was a service with a purpose, and Google spent years building it up into a platform and making sure it was everywhere.

With the newer AI chatbot — known as Bard until a rebranding late last week — I’ve never quite felt like Google knew what it was creating and why (outside of the obvious business incentives). And having now spent several days with Gemini playing the role of virtual assistant on my personal Pixel 8 Pro phone, I’m scratching my head even more about how Google could possibly think this is a good idea.

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