At this year’s CES 2019, one of Google‘s big reveals had to do with Google Assistant being on 1 billion devices. Just last May, it was on 500 million devices — and the new figure is thanks in large to Android smartphones (which come pre-installed with Google Assistant), Google Home speakers, and other devices or gadgets equipped with the assistant.
And now, with smart devices in the bag, and its active daily and monthly user base having grown four times since this point, last year, Google is diversifying the amount of gadgets its Assistant will be compatible with — including feature phones.
Feature phones are experiencing a surge in Africa and other emerging markets — representing a huge opportunity that Google would love to take advantage of.
“There are large, large numbers of feature phones in the market today — hundreds of millions. But if you think about writing, reading, and typing on those feature phones, it’s not that simple. And the voice-first interaction is becoming increasingly important in those markets, and we’re beginning to see traction there.” – Manuel Bronstein, VP, Google Assistant.
And in case you haven’t been paying attention to Google’s activities in that direction, the company, in June 2018, invested $22 million into KaiOS — which builds operating systems for feature phone manufacturers such as Nokia and the like.
This entire development, however, comes as no surprise to observers of last year’s CES, when Google more or less declared war on Amazon’s Alexa and other rivals in the voice assistant market.