When Google and Samsung announced Wear OS 3 last year, I had a lot of questions about how well Google services would run on Samsung devices. Among the wide range of Google apps, I was most curious about Google Assistant. The only catch was that it wasn’t available when the Galaxy Watch 4 lineup launched – and there were only vague promises about when it would actually be available. But yesterday, Google Assistant finally arrived on the Galaxy Watch 4, and after a few hours of playing with it, I’m cautiously optimistic.
Google Assistant was already a feature on older Wear OS 2 watches. It wasn’t great. As Wear OS 2 watches had poor hardware, Google Assistant was often sluggish and never lived up to its full potential. Asking more than just basic queries was a crapshoot. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Tizen watches had a fast performance but only offered Bixby. And Bixby…it’s Bixby. Despite Samsung’s efforts, it’s not as useful as other digital assistants. All this to say: Once the Google Assistant was available for the Galaxy Watch 4, I installed it as fast as I could.
Install Google Assistant
It’s not difficult to set up Google Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4. The only thing you need to do is make sure that your phone and watch are running the latest software. Once done, launch the Google Play Store app on your wrist. You can then either search for “Google Assistant” or scroll down to My Apps. In either case, you should see the “Assistant Update” button. Next, follow the instructions to activate the Google Assistant on your phone.
At this point, you can either opt in or out of Voice Match, which allows Assistant to create a custom voice form on your device. You’ll also see a message alerting you that if you choose to have the watch listen for the “Hey Google” alert, it will affect battery life. (More on this in a moment.)
You can also take the extra step of reprogramming the watch’s Home key (the key with the red edge at the top right) to turn on Google Assistant instead of Bixby. To do that:
- open the Galaxy wearable a program.
- Choose View settings.
- handle Advanced Options.
- Within the Home Key menu, you can either program the assistant to run via a file double press or Press and hold.
Then you can take a page from Marie Kondo’s book, thank Bixby for her service, and wish her well in her future endeavours. (You can’t, however, completely uninstall Bixby. I tried.)
Good performance, awesome battery
Overall, the Google Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4 is by far the best on a Wear OS watch. However, this is a low bar, not all rainbows and butterflies.
The main thing is that Google Assistant is much faster on the Galaxy Watch 4. This is not surprising given that this watch has a more powerful processor than any other Wear OS watch you can currently buy. The assistant understood my commands, whether it was to send a message to my husband, set a timer, or tell me if it would rain today. I also didn’t have to wait impatiently for Google Assistant to handle things. Even if he got it wrong — which all digital assistants do occasionally — he did it quickly. However, the watch must be awake for any voice command to be recorded.
Between the Assistant on the Galaxy Watch 4 and Siri on the Apple Watch Series 7, I’d say the performance is quite similar. Both are quick to wake up, understand the majority of my mumbling, and take the same amount of time to answer queries. However, Assistant has a slight advantage when it comes to providing useful search results. For example, I asked both the assistant and Siri to find my nearest auto repair shop. While Google Assistant was able to recommend nearby shops that were highly rated and easy to get to, Siri found one repair shop with no ratings and several parking garages.
It would have been almost perfect were it not for the fact that enabling the Google Assistant has been a huge battery drain in the short time I’ve been using it. While testing the feature, the always-on display was enabled and the clock was listening for a “Hey Google” player in the background. After about two hours, it went from a full charge to 80 percent. At this rate, I’d be lucky to make it to bedtime. With the same settings enabled on Series 7, for the same amount of time and usage, I only hit 92 percent. I can’t say it’s shocking, but it is disappointing nonetheless.
While it took a while for the Google Assistant to arrive, now that it’s available, the majority of Google services are available as apps on the Galaxy Watch 4. In addition to the Assistant, apps like Gboard, Google Pay, Google Maps, and YouTube Music can all be downloaded directly from the Play Store. Meanwhile, Google Home and Google Wallet are slated to arrive later this year. The calendar is still missing from the collection, but in general, Android users do not You have To stick with pre-installed Samsung apps if they don’t want to.
Eventually, with Google Assistant, I can see myself using a digital assistant on my Samsung smartwatch. This is the first. It was also a much more enjoyable experience than the Assistant on Wear OS 2. So while I can see users choose to stay on Samsung Pay or opt for Spotify on YouTube Music, Google Assistant makes more sense for all but the most die-hard Bixby fan. It’s hard to say how much of this experience will apply to the upcoming Pixel Watch – although I’m optimistic that a good performance here will translate. I also hope that Samsung finds out how to make its next generation of smartwatches more energy efficient. But in the meantime, I hope Galaxy Watch 4 owners don’t have to accept worse battery life in exchange for a good digital assistant.
Photography by Victoria Song/The Verge