Developers have 12 months to prepare for the change
The Made by Google event in 2016 was one for the history books. The first-generation Pixel and Pixel XL arrived, the company embraced mobile virtual reality with its Daydream headset, and the original Google Home smart speaker brought the Assistant out of our phones and into our homes. Not all of them were home runs, but the staying power of Google’s voice assistant is evident. To that end, the company is moving away from some of the first third-party options for apps starting next year.
Google announced Conversational actions disappear exactly one year from today, giving developers twelve months to start using its replacement. Rather than sticking to voice-only functionality, the the company is focusing on application shares with Android, tools that allow existing apps to implement Assistant-focused functionality. This saves software and other experiences from having to be built from scratch every time, although this is a major change for developers who have been working with Conversational Actions for six years.
Actions for the assistant are available in two versions: direct and conversational. While direct actions gave basic answers to your questions – that’s what you’re probably used to using with the assistant – conversational actions connected you to a new service, allowing you to have a dialogue round trip while you play a trivia game or order a ride from Uber. At the time, that made a lot of sense; those were the early days for Assistant and smart speakers in general. Six years later, it is clear that things have changed. The assistant is all around you at all times, built into your smart displays and TVs, your smartwatch and your car. It makes no sense for Google to require developers to create specific software for the assistant alone.
Google says it’s looking to create a platform that is, at its core, voice-based, without having to distract from the Android ecosystem. The company first introduced app actions in 2019 – three years after the conversational actions they replace – and now it’s working to bring them to all these different platforms outside of your smartphone. This should make them more accessible to users who have devices outside of smart speakers, while allowing more apps to support voice functionality than ever before.
While end users probably won’t notice much of a change – it seems conversational actions weren’t being used by many – it’s a big change for developers. These orders will close on June 13, 2023, so it’s time to start planning how to use App Actions in the future.