Google Pixel’s Squeeze for Assistant Was a Button Without a Button

The Pixel 2 is a phone almost five years old, but it has introduced a feature that I miss more and more with each passing year. It used to be called Active Edge, and it lets you summon Google Assistant by simply squeezing your phone. In some ways, this is an unusual idea. But it effectively gave you something you lack on modern phones: a way to physically interact with the phone in order to get something What happened?,

Looking at the sides of the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, you won’t see anything to indicate that you’re holding anything special. Sure, there’s a power button and volume rocker, but otherwise, the edges are sparse. However, give the phone’s bare edges a good squeeze, and a subtle vibration and animation will play out, as Google Assistant pops up from the bottom of the screen, ready to start listening to you. You don’t need to wake up the phone, no need to long press any physical or virtual buttons or tap on the screen. You squeeze and start talking.

Looking at the edges of the Pixel 2, you’d never guess that it’s actually a button.
Photo by Amelia Holovaty Crales/The Verge

We’ll talk about how useful this is in a second, but I don’t want to get bogged down in how cool it feels. Phones are hard objects made of metal and plastic, and even then, the Pixel can tell when I’m applying more pressure than I can hold it. According to an old iFixit teardown, this is made possible by some of the strain gauges on the inside of the phone that can detect ever so slight a bend in your phone case when you squeeze your phone. For the record, this is a change my human nervous system is unable to pick up on; I can’t tell that the phone is tilting at all.

Whether you’ve found Active Edge useful probably comes down to whether you like using Google Assistant, as shown by this Reddit thread. Personally, the only time I’ve ever used a voice assistant on a daily basis is the Pixel 2 because it was really handy. the thing that made it So The convenient is that Squeeze basically always works. Even if you were in an app hiding the navigation buttons or your phone screen was completely off, Active Edge still did its job.

While this made it extremely useful for looking up fun facts or doing quick calculations and conversions, I’d argue that Active Edge could have been more useful had you been able to remap it. I enjoyed being helpful, but if I was able to turn on my flashlight with a squeeze, I’d have instant access to my phone’s most important features, no matter what.

This version of the feature did indeed exist. HTC’s U11, which came out a few months before the Pixel 2, had a similar but more customizable feature called Edge Sense. The two companies worked together on the Pixel and Pixel 2, which explains how it ended up on Google’s devices. In the same year, Google bought HTC’s mobile division team.

The Active Edge wasn’t Google’s first attempt at providing an alternative to using a touchscreen or physical buttons to control your phone. A few years before the Pixel 2, Motorola was letting you open the camera by rotating your phone and turn on the flashlight with karate chops—not unlike how you shuffled music on a 2008 iPod nano. The camera shortcut came about during the relatively short time of Google’s take on Motorola.

However, as time went on, phone makers moved further away from being able to access some essential features with physical action. Take, for example, my daily driver, an iPhone 12 Mini. To launch Siri, I have to press and hold the power button, which has become a burden of responsibilities since Apple got rid of the Home button. To turn on the flashlight, something I do several times a day, I have to wake up the screen and press and hold the button in the left corner. The camera is a bit more convenient, being accessible with a left swipe on the lock screen, but the screen still needs to be on for this to work. And if I’m really using the The easiest way to access the phone, flashlight, or camera is through Control Center, which involves swiping down from the top-right corner and trying to select a specific icon from the grid.

In other words, if I look through my phone and see that my cat is doing something cute, by the time I actually open the camera, he may very well be off. It’s not that it’s hard to launch the camera or turn on the flashlight—it just could be that much more convenient if there were a dedicated button or squeeze gesture. Apple also briefly acknowledged this when it made a battery case for the iPhone that contained a button to launch the camera. The few seconds saved here or there add up to the life of the phone.

Just to prove the point, here’s how fast the camera is launching on my iPhone vs Samsung Galaxy S22, where you can double-click the power button to launch the camera:

Gif The camera of an iPhone is being launched with the Control Center shortcut, and the camera of a Samsung S22 is being launched with the press of a button.  The S22 launched its camera a second or two faster than the iPhone.

There’s less thinking involved when you can just press a button to launch the camera.

Neither phone handles screen recording and camera previews very well, but tapping the camera icon on the iPhone before the S22 opens its camera app.

Unfortunately, even Google’s phones aren’t safe from the disappearance of physical buttons. Active Edge stopped showing on pixels along with 4a and 5s in 2020. Samsung has also removed a button it once included for summoning the virtual assistant (which, unfortunately, happened to be Bixby).

An attempt has been made to add a virtual button that you activate by interacting with the device. For example, Apple has an Accessibility feature that lets you tap the back of your phone to take an action or even launch your mini program as a shortcut, and Google added a similar feature to the Pixel. . But to be completely honest, I just haven’t found them reliable enough. A virtual button that barely ever works is not a good button. The Active Edge worked pretty well for me every time, despite the fact that I had a beefy Otterbox on my phone.

It is not that the physical control over the phone is completely gone. As I mentioned earlier, Apple lets you launch things like Apple Pay and Siri through a series of taps or presses on the power button, and there’s no shortage of Android phones that let you double-press the power button. Allows you to launch the camera or other apps. switch.

However, I would argue that one or two shortcuts assigned to a button may not give us easy access to everything we do. should easy access to. To be clear, I’m not demanding that my phone be completely covered with buttons, but I do think the big manufacturers have been given phones of the past (and, yes, from smaller phone makers – I see you Sony fans). am) should take a cue from. Return at least one or two physical shortcuts. As Google showed, it doesn’t require adding an additional physical key that has to be waterproof. Something as simple as a squeeze could be a button that lets users access features they — or in the Pixel’s case, Google — deem essential.

Source link

Leave a Comment