HOW GOOGLE’S USING PHONES TO BUILD SMART SPEAKER HABITS: Google will reportedly release a new device, called the Pixel Stand, alongside its third generation of Pixel smartphones that will let users turn their phones into makeshift smart speakers, according to 9to5Google. The accessory will be a wireless charging stand that allows the phone to enter a special setting and act much like a small screen-equipped smart speaker. Adding to the ways consumers can use voice will give the company a key leg up in the smart speaker market by affording users a taste of what it’s like to use a smart speaker without investing in a dedicated device.
Most of Google’s voice assistant availability comes from mobile platforms. Its Google Assistant, the voice assistant that powers Google’s Home line of smart speakers, started out on Android and the Allo app, and is widely available to mobile users with a recent version of the Android operating system. The user experience can vary based on the device that they’re using, though — a smart speaker won’t start offering turn-by-turn directions, for example.
The Pixel Stand appears designed to change the way the smartphone acts, so that it will respond as if it were a smart speaker. This means the device will offer users information intended to be consumed from a distance or by voice, rather than from closer distances. According to a beta version of the Google app for Android, Google Assistant will be able to use personal info and offer suggestions, answer questions, or take actions while the phone is still locked on the stand. It’s expected to display larger text and default to using voice over text.
By introducing an accessory that essentially turns its flagship smartphone into a variant of a screen-equipped smart speaker, the company could accomplish a couple of goals:
- Google will introduce more users to smart speaker interactions. As consumers set their phones on the stand to charge, they’ll be prompted with useful information from Google Assistant. If Google’s able to make this display an important part of consumers’ routines, that could push users from the phone-based Google Assistant platform to the smart speaker version of it. That could encourage uptake of Google’s Home ecosystem.
- It could also be a stepping-stone for consumers who might not want to have a permanent always-listening device like a smart speaker just yet. Trust in tech companies is a big problem; 41% of respondents to an exclusive Business Insider Intelligence survey said that a lack of trust in companies to respect their privacy was the main reason they hadn’t purchased a smart speaker so far. The Pixel Stand could be a way for consumers to try out the experience without a dedicated device and with an easy way to opt out, and that trial could assuage concerns and convince consumers to buy a smart speaker.