Google recently renamed its Bard chatbot to Gemini, and the change also included mobile apps for Android and iOS. Although the app is not officially available in India yet, it is a simple solution that allows you to get it up and running in no time.
The ~2MB ‘app’ seems more like a shortcut: a part of the Google app that’s probably already on your phone. Once you set it up, you can summon Gemini just like you would with the old Wizard. That’s how she fared for me.
A unique approach
First, Google has taken a unique approach with Gemini. It hasn’t completely abandoned Assistant, but has kept it for tasks that Gemini can’t perform yet.
This is different from what Microsoft did. The company has taken a bolder step by completely replacing its Cortana voice assistant with Copilot on Windows. However, this confidence could be misplaced. Sure, AI chatbots are capable of doing some really cool things that computers haven’t been able to do until now. But ultimately these tools are prediction models that take an input text and repeatedly predict the next token or word.
This makes them better suited for, say, summarizing your emails than handling tasks on your phone or PC. Without the help of a voice assistant, Copilot is pretty stunted as an assistant: it can’t even launch apps.
The way Google does things, on the other hand, is much smarter. Although the Gemini app takes on the role of Assistant when you install it, it doesn’t actually do that. kill Assistant. Instead, Assistant works behind the scenes to handle commands like “Set an alarm.” Meanwhile, Gemini handles things that were never the Assistant’s strong suit, for example, “Read highlights from today’s mail.”
What is it like to use?
Thanks to this approach, regular Assistant users will feel right at home. When I asked to set an alarm, both the Assistant and Gemini did so quickly and showed me a confirmation message with a green tick. They were quite similar in this case.
However, there are small differences here and there. When I asked Assistant to open a specific Google Drive document, it launched the Drive app almost instantly and highlighted the document for me. But when I asked Gemini the same thing, she took a moment and showed me the relevant documents within the app to choose from.
Still, this easy access to information through my Google account is the kind of ecosystem magic that Assistant always promised but never delivered. Gemini integrates very well with other Google products, unlike Assistant. Once you connect it to Google Workspace, you can use Gemini to search for specific topics in Gmail and Google Drive.
I tried Gemini for a few tasks and it did a great job. You could find specific emails, read today’s news, and analyze documents. Additionally, you can check the accuracy of Gemini’s answers using the fact-checking feature, which you can access by tapping the Google “G” icon.
Meanwhile, many other tasks you would normally do with Assistant are simply passed to Assistant. Commands to control smart lights, for example, still go through Google Assistant, with Gemini as the middleman.
Not (quite) ready for prime time yet
However, there are still some problems waiting to be fixed. But now that the app is being widely tested, Google should be able to quickly polish the experience.
Image search, for example, is not Gemini’s strong suit. I tried an image of a major landmark near my house and asked Gemini what I could do there. The AI strangely thought it was the image of a person. I would like to point out here that he was using Gemini Advanced, not the regular version. And it’s not that Google’s image recognition isn’t up to par because when I ran the same image through the new Search Circle feature, it recognized the location immediately.
Gemini is also a little slower than Assistant, with a slight delay between the time you finish speaking and the time Gemini responds. Some commands like “Hey Google, what’s the weather today?” They are slower with Gemini than with Assistant. I think this is because Google has to choose between Assistant or Gemini for each command, which marginally increases processing time. But some commands, like setting an alarm, are equally fast on both.
Interactions also take longer overall, and Gemini takes longer to process your input than Assistant. This isn’t too surprising, considering the large amount of processing power that generative AI needs, even to execute simple commands.
Overall, Gemini feels like a supercharged Google Assistant: it can do almost everything the regular Assistant can do, but adds some chatbot magic to make it much more useful. It’s a little slower, but the potential is obvious and I’m excited to see Google refine Gemini into the voice assistant of the future.
Once the kinks are resolved, this could be a total game-changer: an AI assistant that actually helps you understand what you want and analyze your data to deliver it. The more Google can integrate Gemini into its entire ecosystem, the more valuable it will be.