Google Assistant’s “Broadcast” feature has long existed as a way to blow up a message to every Google smart speaker in the house. Instead of chasing after every family member at noon, put the smart speakers to work by saying “Hi Google, send ‘It’s noon!'”
In a new blog post, Google Broadcast called “one of our most popular assistant features” and announced that the feature will be extended to display messages on phones, even when outside the Wi-Fi home network. This means that Broadcast will basically become a new Google messaging service.
Broadcast will now be able to send and receive messages on Google Home and Nest smart speakers, Google Home Hub and Nest Hub smart screens, any Android phone and iPhones running the Google Assistant app. Phones are notified when new messages arrive, and group chat members include both individuals (presumably with personal devices such as a telephone) and several public home devices. Like any other messaging service, opening the notification displays a drop-down list of broadcast messages. One major limitation is that messaging only happens within a Google Family Group. If you want to include an outsider, you will be awkward to switch group messaging services.
Broadcast messaging uses audio by default, so speakers and smart screens play the voice recording of your message. Phones and smart screens show a transcript of your message and a play button so you can listen or read if you want, and it seems that phones also have the ability to write a reply. Presumably this would be played on speakers using text to speech.
One of many bespoke Google messaging services
Google has never been able to throw its full weight behind a single messaging service, and the constant launch and closure of competing messaging services has left the company without a competitive messaging platform. Several Google apps like Google Assistant aim to include some minor messaging features over the years, but without joining a clear Google service, they end up spinning their own bespoke messaging services.
In addition to this Google Assistant messaging service, YouTube Messaging existed from 2017 to 2019, Google Maps Messages (for messaging companies) launched in 2018, Google Photos Messaging launched in 2019, Stadia Messaging was added in 2020, and Google Pay Messaging came out of beta with the app was updated in March 2021. And who could forget Google Docs Chat, which has apparently existed forever, though only awkwardly on desktop clients. We may also grant half credit to Google News, which allows you to send a message with a shared news article and will pop up a notification through the Google News app, even if the feature does not support replies. It would be nice if some of these services talked to each other through a single Google Messaging service, but instead manage individual contact lists and message stories.
This is one of the few new Google Assistant features supposed to arrive “just in time” for Mother’s Day (this Sunday – did you all remember, right?), So it’s coming soon.
List image by Google