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Google Assistant button coming to new phones from LG, Nokia, Xiaomi

The search giant wants to spread its digital helper software far and wide.

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LG's G8 ThinQ will have a Google Assistant button.

Angela Lang/CNET

Google wants you to be able to use its Assistant software at the press of a button. So the search giant is bringing that dedicated button to a slew of new phones, the company said Sunday at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.

The Assistant is Google's digital helper, akin to Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri. It can read you the morning's headlines, help you check into a flight or turn off the lights in your hallway.

The new phones with dedicated Assistant buttons include:

  • LG's G8 ThinQ and K40
  • Nokia's 3.2 and 4.2
  • Xiaomi's Mi Mix 3 5G and Mi 9

The button is also coming to new phones by TCL and Vivo, including the V15 Pro, Google said. 

Because of those partnerships, Google said it expects 100 million devices to launch with a dedicated Assistant button.

"We're trying to make the Assistant feel like it's really a part of the phone, instead of just some app you go to," Scott Huffman, head of engineering for the Assistant, said in an interview. 

If you tap the button once, it summons the Assistant, which you can control with your voice. If you double-tap the button, it brings up a "visual snapshot" of your day that shows you the weather, your schedule and other information based on recent things you might have looked up with the Assistant. If you press and hold down the button, it activates a "walkie talkie" feature for longer queries, like if you're dictating an email.

For Google, spreading the Assistant far and wide is crucial as people search for things more with their phones and less from Google's iconic home page. Last month, the search giant announced the Assistant was on 1 billion devices -- with the vast majority on Android phones.

Google first brought a dedicated Assistant button to phones last year with the LG G7 ThinQ. On the search giant's own latest flagship phone, the Pixel 3, you can summon the Assistant by squeezing the sides of the handset. Samsung's Galaxy phones also have buttons for its own digital assistant, Bixby