The delayed launch of the Google Assistant for Galaxy Watch 4 was highly anticipated, so we got to work to find out if it’s a massive advance.
We’ve waited almost a year for the best voice assistant to come to what’s still the best Wear OS smartwatch. Since the launch of the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic, Samsung’s Bixby has been the only hands-free voice control system you can use from your wrist.
It wasn’t ideal for those anchored in Google’s smart home ecosystem, but now you can enjoy the full-fledged Google Assistant right on your wrist. Was it worth the wait? We got to work to find out.
Video – Google Assistant for Galaxy Watch 4 hands-on
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Setup process and pitfalls
Unfortunately, you can’t easily toggle the Assistant on your Galaxy Watch 4 or Watch 4 Classic. There’s an element of work that needs to be put into getting things working properly. You need to download the Google Assistant to your Galaxy Watch 4 from the Play Store.
Oddly enough, you may see that the store listing prompts you to “update” instead of installing. This suggests that Wear OS 3.0 already has a number of prerequisites and that simply enables the feature, but unfortunately we don’t know for sure. It’s fairly small at around 11MB in size and shouldn’t take up your device storage.
Open the newly installed Assistant app and it will take you to your smartphone, where you’ll need to follow a setup process to activate the feature on your wrist. If you have Voice Match enabled in your Google account, you can go through the process quickly and seamlessly. If you’re happy with the “Hey Google” or “Okay, Google” wake-up commands, you don’t need to do anything else.
You can enable quick activation of Google Assistant using Watch 4’s side buttons by going to Settings > Advanced features > Customize buttons > Press and hold. This section now includes a new “Assistant” option, which you can activate by long-pressing the top side button on your smartwatch if you prefer that to the traditional wake command.
If you have used Bixby before, we recommend disabling the Voice Wake-up feature if you intend to use it on your smartwatch. It’s not entirely clear to us, but some voice commands can be slow to register when Bixby voice activation is active and disabling the alternative voice assistant seems to have helped with voice recognition and speed.
Google Assistant for Galaxy Watch 4: what can you do?
Here’s the good news: everything you can normally do with a Google Assistant-connected device, you can do from your wrist. This includes controlling smart home technology, setting reminders, sending messages, initiating a call, asking general questions, and more.
Unlike older Wear OS watches, the Galaxy Watch 4 packs more information and is far more visually stunning than ever. It’s certainly an extension of the Assistant experience you get on smartphones and tablets, but on a much smaller scale.
Ask for directions in Maps and you’ll get a micrograph of the path, or ask the age of your favorite Hollywood actor and you’ll get additional details and maybe an attached photo. It’s nothing groundbreaking for the Assistant, but this expansion creates a cohesion of the experience from device to device.
How does it compare to Google Assistant on Wear OS 2.0?
Google has made the bold claim that the Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4 offers “faster response times than ever.” In our experience, that’s not really true. Sure, Assistant results are certainly more information-rich, and richer responses are more visually impressive. However, the speeds on the TicWatch Pro 3 with Wear OS 2.34 are pretty similar – but without the added visuals.
We tested with a number of common commands, e.g. For example, you can ask about the current weather conditions, set an alarm, get answers to a number of basic searches, get some directions, and even send an SMS message to a contact.
For the most part, the older TicWatch Pro has actually kept up, managing to return common queries faster than the Galaxy Watch 4 on more than a few occasions. That’s disappointing, to say the least, but in our brief tests while it appears as though the Galaxy Watch 4 handles voice commands, there’s a snag with the newer smartwatch that’s reminiscent of the Nest Hub range.
As each word or phrase appears on the screen, the time it takes to launch the Google Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4 seemed to take longer during our hands-on process. Of course, in the older version of Wear OS, you can’t always switch from one command to another without interacting with the display. This gives the Watch 4 a slight edge, allowing you to remain completely hands-free when issuing commands.
Annoyingly, you don’t get any visual or audible feedback when you type a repeat command, e.g. B. Try to set an alarm for the same time as a previously set alarm. We were often confused as the guard didn’t seem to register exactly what was being asked of the assistant. In fact, it had merely prevented a repeat action from taking place.
Disabling the “Voice Wake-up” setting for Bixby initially impacted voice recognition speed, but not to the point where the Galaxy Watch 4 is exponentially faster than previous Wear OS generations. We’re hoping Samsung and Google can improve with updates, as those initial speed improvement claims just don’t hold up.
However, a few seconds here and there won’t matter to most people. While the Google Assistant coming to the best Wear OS watch out there is a far bigger deal. Bixby is a good alternative, but lacks the ability to answer questions and queries that require Google’s powerful search. At least now you have another option.
Let’s hope to see faster on-device processing with the upcoming Pixel Watch. For now, though, this is the only way to experience the long-awaited full-fat Google Assistant on a wearable, and it sums it up in two words: it’s fine.
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