The delayed launch of Google Assistant for the Galaxy Watch 4 was highly anticipated, so we’ve set out to find out if it’s a big step forward.
We’ve waited almost a year for the best voice assistants to come out, which is still the best Wear OS smartwatch out there. 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’ve been able to use from your wrist.
For those involved in Google’s smart home ecosystem, it wasn’t ideal, but you can now enjoy the full-fat Google Assistant on your wrist. Has it been worth the wait? We’ve gone hands-on to find out.
Video — Google Assistant practical for the Galaxy Watch 4
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Setup process and disadvantages
Sadly, you cannot turn on Assistant on your Galaxy Watch 4 or Watch 4 Classic. There is an element of work that needs to go through in order for things to be up and running properly. You need to go to Google Assistant and download it from the Play Store on your Galaxy Watch 4.
Somewhat oddly, you may notice that the Store listing asks you to “update” instead of install. This indicates that Wear OS 3.0 already includes several prerequisites and only activates the feature but, alas, we don’t really know for sure. At around 11MB in size, it’s quite small and shouldn’t affect your on-device storage.
Open the recently installed Assistant app and it will take you to your smartphone where you will need to follow a setup process to enable the feature on your wrist. If you have Voice Match enabled in your Google Account, you can do this process quickly and seamlessly. If you’re happy using the “Hey Google” or “Ok, Google” wake command, you don’t need to do anything else.
You can enable quick Google Assistant activation using the Watch 4 side button by going to Settings > Advanced features > Customize keys > Press and hold. This section now includes a new “Assistant” option that you can enable by long-pressing the upper side button on your smartwatch if you prefer it over the traditional wake-up command.
If you have used Bixby before, we suggest you disable the “Voice wake-up” feature if you intend to use it on your smartwatch. It’s not entirely clear to us, but if Bixby Voice Activation is activated and disabling the optional voice assistant helped with speech recognition and speed, some voice commands may be slow to register.
Google Assistant for Galaxy Watch 4: What can you do?
Here’s the good news: Anything you can normally do with a device connected to the Google Assistant can be done from your wrist. This includes controlling smart home technology, setting reminders, sending messages, starting calls, asking FAQs, and more.
Unlike older Wear OS watches, the Galaxy Watch 4 includes more detail and is more impressive than ever. It’s certainly an extension of the helpful experience you’ll find on smartphones and tablets but on a much smaller scale.
Ask for directions in Maps and you’ll get a subtle image of the directions or ask for the age of your favorite Hollywood actor and you’ll get additional details and maybe a photo attached. This is nothing new as far as the assistant is concerned, but this extension makes the experience cohesive from one device to another.
How does it compare to the Google Assistant on Wear OS 2.0?
Google has made a bold claim that the Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4 offers “greater response times than ever”. In our experience this is not really true. Of course, supporting results are certainly more information-intensive and richer responses more impressive. However, the speeds are pretty much the same on the TicWatch Pro 3 running Wear OS 2.34 – but without the extra visual elements.
We tested using a number of common commands like asking about the current weather conditions, setting an alarm, getting answers to a number of basic search questions, some driving directions, and even sending an SMS message to a contact. Send.
In most cases, the older TicWatch Pro really kept up the pace and managed to return general queries faster than the Galaxy Watch 4 in more than a few instances. It’s disappointing, to say the least, but in our brief testing, it seems to hang on when the Galaxy Watch 4 is processing voice commands, a feature reminiscent of the Nest Hub series.
As each word or phrase appears on the screen, the time it takes to start Google Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4 is longer than it took during our practical process. Of course, on an older version of Wear OS, you can’t always go from command to command without interacting with the display. This gives the Watch 4 a small advantage because you can stay completely hands-free while making commands.
Annoyingly, if you do a repeat command like trying to set an alarm for the same amount of time as the one you already set, you don’t get any visual or audio feedback. Often we were left confused as the watch seemed to fail to record what the assistant was asked. In fact, it only prevented the repetitive action from happening.
Disabling the “Voice wake-up” setting for Bixby initially made a difference to voice recognition speed, but not to the point where the Galaxy Watch 4 is blazingly fast compared to the previous Wear OS generation. We’re hoping Samsung and Google can improve with the update, as those initial speed improvement claims just don’t hold up.
That said, a few seconds here and there don’t matter for most people. While having the Google Assistant in the best Wear OS watch on the market is a big deal. Bixby is a good alternative but it lacks the ability to answer questions and queries that require powerful Google search. At least now, you have one more option at your disposal.
Let’s hope we get resources on the device faster with the upcoming Pixel Watch. For now, though, that’s the only way to experience the long-awaited full-fat Google Assistant on the wearable and sum it up in two words: It’s okay.
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