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What Does ‘Google Assistant Compatible’ Mean?

Smart-home thoughts from CES 2018

It seemed as if every exhibitor around the CES show floor was touting smart products imbued with voice control, mostly either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and, to a lesser extent, Apple’s Siri.

But a nomenclature problem is arising in this burgeoning product category and functionality. Vendors are variously referring to their products’ voice capabilities as “Alexa Ready” or “Works with Google Assistant” or “Siri Compatible” — without indicating if these terms indicate the voice assistant is built-in or merely accepts commands transmitted via a compatible smart speaker.

For instance, Vivitar touted its four smart speaker models as “Alexa/Siri/Google Compatible.” Apple, of course, doesn’t license Siri, and a company representative noted the speakers have both Alexa and Google Assistant capabilities built-in but an iPhone is needed for the Siri bit. 

The packaging for Altec Lansing’s “Live” speakers are imprinted with “Google Assistant built-in” but its Soundstream portable speakers packaging proclaims “works with the Google Assistant.” A sign heralding 808 Audio’s portable speakers notes they are “Siri and Google Now Ready” — although Google Now isn’t the same thing as Google Assistant.

This loose use of these nondescript terms could lead consumers to believe they’ll be able to talk to their voice “ready” or “compatible” device. Without clearer descriptions and explanations, retailers could be in for returns from disappointed and angry customers who find they can’t directly command their new gear.