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If Android moves from Assistant to Bard, I'm opting out. Here's why

As Google reshuffles staff to focus more on its Bard AI, Assistant could be collateral damage.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Getty Images/Umnat Seebuaphan

I've been using Android since version 1.5 of the OS and have enjoyed the platform. I find it far more flexible than iOS on every conceivable level. In the same vein as the Linux operating system, if there's something about Android I don't like, chances are pretty good I can change it. That's not the case with Apple's mobile platform. I've also been a big fan of the Pixel line of phones. I started with the Pixel at version 2 and haven't purchased a different brand or model since then. But all of that could change if the writing on the wall is as clear as I believe.

Also: The best Android phones right now 

Recently, I read a number of articles detailing a particular shift occurring within the Google team landscape. That shift centers around the reshuffling of the Google Assistant unit to focus on the Bard AI technology.

Before I continue, let me explain my beef with what's become of AI. 

AI used to be a technology that worked behind the scenes. AI helped with a number of Android features (such as when you started typing and it would guess the next word you wanted to type, or with the Google Photos magic eraser feature). But then AI started to come into its own with the likes of ChatGPT and Google's new Bard AI

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At this point, AI is offered as a means to an end, such as writing essays and news pieces, creating images, making HR decisions, and more. Essentially, AI began to have very specific purposes. To someone like me, who writes words for a living, AI is slowly becoming the competition. I know talented people who have lost their jobs to AI. In fact, most writers I know are genuinely concerned for their futures. And it's not just writers. Graphic artists, musicians, HR staff, and even healthcare professionals are concerned that they will be replaced by AI.

And that's why I have a serious problem with this technology. The people behind this technology either don't see the dystopian future they are building or they don't care. 

Also: 5 ways to keep your smartphone working like new, for longer

Understand this: Technology shouldn't serve to replace human beings but to make their lives a bit easier. I don't mind using AI in the form of grammar assistance (although such technology will never replace an actual editor for me) and I fully understand that AI helps to power Google Assistant. However, Google Assistant is nowhere near the level of AI that is found in the likes of Bard AI.

What I want in a digital assistant

It's pretty cut and dry. I want a digital assistant that will dial numbers for me, answer basic questions when needed, and give me directions. I don't want or need an assistant capable of writing full-blown articles, generating images, or doing my job for me. I'm not looking for a phone that becomes complicit in my dumbing down or causes me to depend on it to do things I prefer doing on my own.

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Simply put, I want a digital assistant that assists in the background and only when needed. I want a digital assistant that exists on the periphery, not the forefront.

So, now that a possible meowing floof is out of the bag that Google has shuffled the Assistant unit to focus on Bard AI, it seems the writing is on the wall. If assumptions are to be made, the easiest conclusion is that the company plans to replace Assistant with Bard AI. Should that happen, I will take one of two courses of action:

  • Continue with Android but disable Bard AI.
  • If disabling Bard AI isn't an option, I will find a new platform.

The second option could be tricky. Why? If Google migrates to Bard AI, you can bet Apple will do something similar with iOS. If both mobile giants take the same course, those who feel the same way I do will have to find another mobile operating system to use. The issue with alternative OSs is finding quality hardware. Most non-Google and non-Apple phones I've tried have been woefully underpowered, which makes for a less-than-viable alternative.

Also: 7 things you didn't realize your phone can do 

There's always the deGoogled /e/OS but the devices that are supported are old (the most recent Pixel being the 4, which had abysmal battery life). The same holds true for Ubuntu Touch (with the most recently supported Pixel device being the 3). I'm not willing to move from a Pixel 7 Pro to a Pixel 3.

What's left?

There's always the Samsung Galaxy line of phones with their Bixby assistant. It's not ideal but it's certainly an option to consider. I've always found Bixby to be more intrusive and less helpful than Google Assistant. However, if Google does migrate to Bard AI and makes it such that it cannot be disabled, I will gladly migrate to a Galaxy phone, disable Bixby, and happily use a phone without a digital assistant. Why? I don't use Google Assistant all that much anyway. I prefer to do things manually. 

Also: Okay, so ChatGPT debugged my code. For real

So, Google, if you're listening, don't make this switch. If you do, please make it so users can opt in or out of Bard AI. I really like my Pixel phone and would rather not make the switch. But if my hand is forced, I will. 

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