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How Assistant differs on Android, Android Wear, Google Home and Allo

You can now access Google Assistant from many different places. But where and how you access Assistant will determine what you can do with it.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Google Assistant, the brains behind the Google Home speaker and the virtual assistant found on Android phones and watches and within Allo, is oddly fragmented. Unlike Alexa, which works virtually the same whether you're accessing it from an official device, third-party hardware, a DIY Alexa speaker or even the Amazon app on an iOS, Google Assistant's feature list varies based on how or with which device you use it.

Something you can do with Google Home, you might not be able to do with Assistant on your Android device. Here is how Assistant is different in all the places it's available.

What Google Assistant can do everywhere

Despite its varying list of features, Google Assistant is capable of quite a lot, regardless of how you're tapping into it. Here are some things you can do with Google Assistant, regardless of how you're accessing it:

  • Ask questions about almost anything
  • Get nutritional facts
  • Set timers
  • Create alarms
  • Get news and sports updates
  • Get weather updates and forecasts
  • Check traffic
  • Find nearby businesses
  • Perform calculations
  • Convert units
  • Get definitions
  • Get translations

Google Home

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Taylor Martin/CNET

The Google Home is missing some of the more phone-specific features, such as directions, making calls or sending messages. To a degree, that makes a lot of sense. But it also leaves plenty of room for improvement.

How nice would it be to be able to ask the Google Home for a restaurant recommendation and automatically have directions sent to your phone? And the Google Home seems like it would make a really great speakerphone.

Assistant on the Google Home can't:

  • Create reminders and new events
  • Make calls
  • Send messages
  • Get directions
  • Get movie show times
  • Create notes
  • Identify songs
  • Subscribe to searches

That said, a big boon for the smart speaker is its ability to throw videos, movies and music to Cast-enabled devices around your house. And for what it's worth, some of these shortcomings can be fixed with simple IFTTT applets which were oddly created by Google itself.

Also worth mentioning is that Assistant will identify songs that are currently playing on that specific device, but not by listening Shazam style. This is somewhat odd, since it was a feature available in Google Now that, for some reason, is missing entirely from Assistant.

For a more complete look at what Google's smart speaker can do, check out our complete list of Google Home commands.

Android

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Taylor Martin/CNET

Assistant baked right into Android is the most fully featured version of Google's virtual assistant. It comes with the ability to place calls, send messages, create events and reminders and get directions. But it's still missing a few things.

Assistant on Android can't:

  • Identify songs
  • Subscribe to searches
  • Shop with Google Express
  • Throw content to Cast devices
  • Access third-party services

With an Android phone that still has Google Now alongside Assistant, you can circumvent Assistant's lack of a song identifier feature by starting a Google voice search and saying, "What song is this?" Google Now will listen to the song and identify it for you.

Android Wear

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Jason Cipriani/CNET

Assistant is available on watches that have been updated to Android Wear 2.0. While it supports most of the features found on the Android version of Assistant, some features are missing from the list.

Assistant on Android Wear can't:

  • Identify songs
  • Subscribe to searches
  • Shop with Google Express
  • Throw content to Cast devices
  • Access third-party services
  • Get movie show times
  • Play games
  • Create a shopping list

Allo

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Taylor Martin/CNET

Allo is one of Google's many chat apps, and it's an odd place for Assistant to exist. To make matters worse, it's missing several of the features found on the Google Home or the built-in version of Assistant on Android. And it only has one function that the others do not: subscribing to daily news, poems, funny videos, fun facts and much more.

Assistant on Allo can't:

  • Request upcoming calendar events
  • Tell you about your day
  • Create a shopping list
  • Create notes
  • Play custom playlists
  • Identify songs
  • Throw content to Cast devices
  • Control smart home devices
  • Trigger IFTTT applets
  • Shop with Google Express
  • Access third-party service