Android in the time of AI


The AI gadgets that were supposed to save us from our phones have arrived woefully underbaked — whatever illusions we might have held that the Humane AI pin or the Rabbit R1 were going to offer any kind of salve for the constant rug burn of dealing with our personal tech is gone. Hot Gadget Spring is over and developer season is upon us, starting with Google I/O this coming Tuesday.

It also happens to be a pivotal time for Android. I/O comes on the heels of a major re-org that put the Android team together with Google’s hardware team for the first time. The directive is clear: to run full speed ahead and put more AI in more things. Not preferring Google’s own products was a foundational principle of Android, though that model started shifting years ago as hardware and software teams collaborated more closely. Now, the wall is gone and the AI era is here. And if the past 12 months have been any indication, it’s going to be a little messy.

The Pixel 8 uses Google’s AI-forward Tensor chipset, but its AI tricks don’t amount to a cohesive vision.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Gemini launched as an AI-fueled alternative to the standard Google Assistant a little over three months ago, and it didn’t feel quite ready yet. On day one, it couldn’t access your calendar or set a reminder — not super helpful. Google has added those functions since then, but it still doesn’t support third-party media apps like Spotify. Google Assistant has supported Spotify for most of the last decade.

But the more I come back to Gemini, the more I can see how it’s going to change how I use my phone. It can memorize a dinner recipe and talk me through the steps as I’m cooking. It can understand when I’m asking the wrong question and give me the answer to the one I’m looking for instead (figs are the fruit that have dead wasp parts in them; not dates, as I learned). It can tell me which Paw Patrol toy I’m holding, for Pete’s sake.

Gemini debuted a few months ago missing some key features, but Google has filled in some of the gaps since then.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Again, though — party tricks. Gemini’s real utility will arrive when it can integrate more easily across the Android ecosystem; when it’s built into your earbuds, your watch, and into the very operating system itself.

Android’s success in the AI era rides on those integrations. ChatGPT can’t read your emails or your calendars as readily as Gemini; it doesn’t have easy access to a history of every place you’ve visited in the past decade. Those are real advantages, and Google needs every advantage right now. We’ve seen plenty of signals that Apple plans to unveil a much smarter Siri at WWDC this year. Microsoft and OpenAI aren’t sitting still either. Google needs to lean into its advantages to deliver AI that’s more than a party trick — even if it’s a little un-Android-like.

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