Beyond the Alphabet

Android Central's LLoyd with a projection with a Google logo

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Beyond the Alphabet is a weekly column that focuses on the tech world both inside and out of the confines of Mountain View.

With Galaxy AI taking over the world now that the Galaxy S24 is out, my focus has switched back to what Google is planning with Bard. The company just introduced Imagen 2 image generation to Bard while expanding the reach of Gemini Pro to more countries and in more languages.

This is all great news, but it’s not exactly the news that I was hoping for. No, I’m not talking about Gemini Ultra, which is still slated to arrive sometime this year. Instead, I’m still wondering where in the world Assistant with Bard is. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been seeing more leaks about what the interface will look like, and that Google might even be rebranding it to just “Gemini.”

Along with one of the more recent leaks, Mishaal Rahman shared that Assistant with Bard could land as soon as March. But, he goes on to reveal the thing I’ve been fearing the most — the new Assistant may not be available on every device. In his tweet, Rahman says that the “Pixel Tablet, Pixel Fold, and rumored Pixel Fold 2 appear on the deny list.”

See more

So basically, if you’re using any of the best Android phones that aren’t a Pixel, you won’t be able to use it. Adding insult to injury, if you’re like me and spent $1,800 on the Pixel Fold, we might be **** outta luck.

For a while now, I’ve been feeling like Google and other Android phone makers have been barreling towards an Apple-like walled garden experience. Instead of being the “open platform for all,” Android is just getting worse. Features are locked to certain devices, such as ECG and Blood Pressure Monitoring, which don’t work with the Galaxy Watch on a non-Samsung device.

Samsung getting “first dibs” on Wear OS, which essentially left Fossil with no choice but to bow out of the smartwatch segment altogether. There are more examples, but they are mostly how Samsung throws money at different companies to have “exclusive functionality.” I’m looking at you, Microsoft.

Google Samsung Google Io 2021 Wear Os

(Image credit: Google )

Now, it seems like Google has learned the wrong things after working side-by-side with Samsung for so long. What makes this whole situation worse is that Google is fragmenting ITS OWN DEVICES. We’ve finally reached the point where fragmentation isn’t a dirty word, for the most part, and Google decides to just throw it all away.

The Pixel 8 Pro getting features that the Pixel 8 doesn’t have makes a tiny bit more sense, but not much. The same goes for the differences between the Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24 Ultra, which mostly comes down to specs. That’s to be expected, considering this is how phone makers have offered different phones in the same lineup for years.

However, in the case of the Pixel Fold, for $1,800, not only can I not enjoy or take advantage of some of the new AI-powered features announced with the Pixel 8 series, but I won’t even be able to use the new version of Assistant. Frankly, just the thought of that makes my blood boil. I expect it from Samsung. I expect it from Apple (in a different manner.) I don’t expect it from Google.

Comparing the Google Pixel 8 Pro to the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

I’m also aware that it’s just speculation at this point, and Google could change its mind. Especially considering that the rumored Pixel Fold 2 should be powered by at LEAST the Tensor G3, if not the Tensor G4. So it would make literally zero sense for Google Assistant with Gemini Bard to not be available on the company’s next foldable.

If anything, it’s just another example of why Google doesn’t really care about the hardware and doesn’t care about its users. Instead, anyone who buys a Pixel phone should only do so with the understanding that you’re a beta user and Google is treating you as such.

Does Google even know what it’s doing with Gemini, Assistant, and Bard?

But, if Google’s “grand plan” is to release an overhauled and rebranded version of Assistant, what is holding back the Pixel Fold from being included? Hell, if Mishaal is right, the Tensor G1-powered Pixel 6 will get Google Assistant Gemini with Bard, which you can still buy new from Amazon for under $350.

All of these just lead further credence to the idea that Google has no idea what it’s doing with Bard or Gemini. After it was announced, I wrote that I was “all aboard the Assistant with Bard hype train.” Considering that Assistant with Bard hasn’t even pulled up to the train station yet, I’m really leaning toward leaving the station.

Bard is cool, but so are ChatGPT, Perplexity, and hell, even Microsoft Copilot shows a lot of promise. Google used to lead the way, at least in the way of Assistant, and now, it’s just wandering around aimlessly. Maybe that will change, and I hope that I have to eat my words, but, I really don’t think that’ll be happening. At least not this time.