8 things Google Assistant does on Pixel that it can't do in Allo

All Google Assistants are not created equal.

pixel assistant main assist
Credit: Ryan Whitwam
Anyone can use Assistant in Allo, but it comes alive on Pixel

Google is in the process of making Assistant a prominent part of its products, including the chat app Allo and the new Google Pixel. The Pixel is the first phone to have Assistant built-in, and it's actually much more robust than the version of Assistant in Allo. There's plenty of overlap, and of course there are things Assistant can't do in Pixel (like text input and emoji games), but you can do things in Assistant on the Pixel that Allo's version can't manage. Here are eight of the most useful.

pixel assistant any screen
Access Assistant from any screen or when the screen is off

Assistant is a prominent part of the Pixel, and thus it has a commensurately prominent position. You can launch Assistant at any time by long-pressing the home button. Assistant on the Pixel is taking the place of standard “OK Google” commands, so that means you can activate it by voice as well. After teaching the Pixel your voice, the “OK Google” command summons Assistant from any screen or even when the phone is asleep. With Allo, you need to open the app and either use the Assistant chat, or ping @Google while talking to someone else.

pixel assistant on tap
Now on Tap (sort of) built-in

Assistant’s home button shortcut on the Pixels is where you used to get Google Now on Tap, but that doesn’t really exist anymore as a standalone feature. The “Now” branding is completely absent from the settings, but the essence of Now on Tap continues to exist as part of Assistant on the Pixel.

Simply launch Assistant on any screen that isn’t the launcher and drag up. You’ll get cards for content found on the screen. It’s similar to Now on Tap, but Google just calls this screen search now. From there, you can use the contextual cards, or go on making Assistant commands.

You can also ask the Assistant contextual info based on what's on the screen. For example, when reading a website about Hawaii, you could simply summon the Assistant and ask "how's the weather there?" without even swiping up to get those screen search cards. The Assistant should give you the weather in Hawaii. 

pixel assistant open apps
Launch apps instantly

Assistant knows what apps are on your phone, and on the Pixel, you can open them without even touching the device. Simply launch Assistant (by voice, if you want) and tell it to “open [app name].” In the Allo version of Assistant, you’ll get a suggestion of the app to open and you have to tap, but Assistant on the Pixel just does it in one step.

pixel assistant game show
Game show mode

Perhaps the most entertaining Easter Egg Google has built into Assistant is the “I’m feeling lucky” game show mode. It’s only available in Assistant on the Pixel, and can be triggered by telling Assistant, “I’m feeling lucky.” (You can also ask to play a game—there are several to choose from.) Music starts playing, and Assistant starts using a cheesy announcer voice to get the game underway. It asks how many people are playing, gives everyone nicknames, and then asks questions. The questions range from extremely easy to quite challenging. At the end of the game, it tallies up the scores and tells you who won. You can also play by yourself if you want.

pixel assistant photos
Hands-free photos

Most phones have timer modes in the camera app so you can take a photo without actually hitting the shutter button, but Assistant on the Pixel lets you do everything by voice. Just say “take a photo” or “take a selfie” and Assistant will open the camera and start a three second countdown. If that’s not long enough, you can add a specific number of seconds. For example, “take a selfie in 10 seconds.”

pixel assistant shopping list
Shopping list management

If you need to grab something at the store, you can use Assistant on the Pixel to manage your shopping list. Just say, “Add [item] to my shopping list.” Assistant plugs into Google Keep where it will generate a new checklist called Google Assistant Shopping List. You can edit items on it manually too, but each time you use the voice to add something, it will be added instantly without opening Keep. 

pixel assistant my day
The 'My Day' command

Life can be hectic, but Google Assistant on the Pixel is able to give you a quick brief of the day’s events. Just tell it “good morning,” “good afternoon,” or “good evening,” and you’ll get an overview of everything. Assistant’s “My Day” command gives you the time, weather, commute traffic, upcoming calendar events and reminders, and then goes on to (optionally) read the news to you.

You can easily disable the things you don't want, and customize news sources, in the Settings. Just tap the overflow menu (three dots in the upper right) from the Assistant.

pixel assistant read news
Read the news

The news section of My Day can be disabled, and you might want to do that. It takes a while to listen to. However, you can also trigger it simply by asking Assistant to read the news. It’s actually pulling in short news podcasts and playing them in Assistant. There are playback controls in the notification pane, and you can go into Assistant’s settings to change the list of sources. By default, it plays things like the NPR news summary and BBC Minute. There are several dozen other sources that can be enabled, organized into sections like Technology, Business, Sports, and Entertainment.