One of the most exciting features in the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL is the upgraded version of the Google Assistant, which for the moment at least is exclusive to those two phones.
Powered by an on-device Pixel Neural Core chip, the new Google Assistant is not only way faster than before. It also features a whole new design and interface, introduces Continued Conversation to phones for the first time, and is more deeply integrated into the operating system and all of the phone’s apps.
However, not everyone who turns the Pixel 4 on for the first time will find the new Assistant waiting for them, and there are two things you’ll need to make sure of to access it:
- Set your Google Assistant language to US English
- Turn on Gesture navigation
- Log out of any G Suite account logged into the phone
If you don’t already meet any of those three then you’ll have to make some changes to your phone’s settings in order to use the new Assistant. Some of the changes are potentially irritating in their own right though, so read our reviews of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL to find out what we think of the new Assistant to help you decide if it’s worth it or not.
How to tell if you have the new Assistant
The first question you might have is whether or not you’re on the new Assistant already without realising. Fortunately, it’s easy to tell, because Google has changed how it looks.
To find out, access the Assistant from your Pixel 4 by either swiping up from the bottom corners, squeezing the sides of the phone, or saying ‘Hey Google’.
If you see a box that takes up the bottom half of the screen, with four coloured dots right at the bottom, then you’re on the old Assistant and will need to follow our instructions to get the new one.
If you see a smaller faded box with a line made up of four moving coloured segments (just like in the photo below) then you’re already on the new version and don’t need to change anything.
Set the language to US English
The first thing to do is make sure that you have your Assistant language set to US English. Note that this is specifically the language for the Google Assistant, not your language setting for the phone as a whole or for your Google account.
And yes, it does have to be US English - UK English or any other variant won’t work, nor will any other language. No doubt Google will eventually roll out support for other languages, but right now it’s US-only.
The easiest way to change the setting is to open the Assistant (either by squeezing the edges of the phone, swiping up from the bottom corners, or saying ‘Hey Google’) and then tapping the icon in the bottom-left.
On the following screen you should see your profile picture in the top-right - tap it, and then on the next screen tap on the tab labelled ‘Assistant’. The top option here will be ‘Assistant languages’. Select it, and then add ‘English (United States)’ as your language, and remove any other languages just to be safe.
A couple things to note. For one, this does mean you’ll now hear your Assistant talking to you in an American accent: sorry if that’s annoying, but you can’t do much about it. Second, it will have this affect across every Google Assistant device you use, including any Google Home or Nest smart speakers, so you’d better get used to your new American assistant - they’re gonna follow you everywhere.
Turn on Gesture navigation
The next thing to check is that you have Gesture navigation switch on, as for some reason Google decided to make the new Assistant incompatible with the three-button menu style.
To be clear, this doesn’t refer to the Pixel 4’s new Motion Sense radar controls. Instead, the Gesture navigation in question is the swipe controls that replace the old three buttons at the bottom of the screen.
It’s easy to tell if you’ve got this enabled or not: if you can see small triangle, circle, and square icons at the bottom of your display then you’re on the old mode, and will have to switch to Gestures.
To do so, open your phone’s settings. Go to System, then Gestures, and scroll down to ‘System navigation’. There are only two options in here, so make sure that ‘Gesture navigation’ is selected, and used the gear icon to adjust the back swipe sensitivity if you need to.
Log out of any G Suite accounts
Here’s the third irritation, and it might be a big problem for some. Thanks to a launch issue, the new Google Assistant doesn’t work on phones that have G Suite accounts.
G Suite is Google’s cloud-based productivity platform for businesses. So if your office uses Gmail, Google Drive, or Google Calendar, your work account is probably tied to G Suite.
Unfortunately, that rules you out of the new Assistant. And it’s not only if your G Suite email is tied to the main account on your phone - if you use another account as the primary Android account but sign into Gmail or Drive on the phone using the G Suite account, the new Assistant still won’t work.
If you’re willing to remove the account, it’s simple to do so - but the price is that you won’t be able to check your work email or calendar from your phone, which might be a dealbreaker.
Still, if you can, just head into the main phone settings, then scroll down to Accounts. You should see a Google account for your work email address, so tap on that and there’ll be the option to ‘Remove account’. Hit that and follow the steps and you should be able to get the modern Google Assistant.
If you’ve set your Assistant language to US English, you’re using Gesture navigation, and you’re sure you’re still on the old Google Assistant, there are a couple other things you can try that have been recommended by Google’s support team.
First of all, I’d try rebooting the phone just to check it doesn’t activate the Assistant when you boot it back up.
If not, make sure you don’t have a third-party launcher installed (and if you don’t know what that means, then you almost certainly don’t have one, so don’t worry). Then check that Battery Saver is switched off and that you don’t have any special accessibility features turned on.
How to get the new Assistant on other phones
Here's the bad news: the updated Assistant is still exclusive to the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, so if you're on any other phone - even another Pixel - you can't get at it.
That's partly because it's tied to the Pixel 4's Neural Core chip, but we still expect that some upgrades - not least the new design and Continued Conversation features - will come to other Pixels and maybe even more Android devices some time soon, and we'll update this whenever it becomes possible to get it.