The last few Android iterations have introduced a lot of contextual actions and shortcuts in various places of the OS. You can select a phone number to call it, a word to define it, an artist name to open it in Spotify, or you may sometimes find smart actions in notifications. The most widely available of the latter is an "open" button when you receive links. Now, there's a new addition that lets you set reminders only when a contact asks you to do something.

There are many question marks regarding what triggers this reminder action, but before we get to that, let's look at how it shows up and how it works.

It pops up as a "Set reminder" action bubble right next to or in lieu of smart replies inside a compatible messaging notification. Not all notification content triggers it — it's smart enough to come up only when a friend or contact asks you to do something.

Tap the option and you'll be taken to Google Keep to set up a reminder. The title will be pre-filled from the message's content, and all you have to do is set up a time or place and save it. This creates a new reminder note in Google Keep, which also gets synchronized with Google Assistant's reminders. You can also find it in your Calendar.

But Keep isn't the only app that can handle these. Google Tasks is also supported, and if you have both apps installed, you'll get asked to pick one of them. Other to-do apps like Todoist don't appear to be compatible.

With Tasks, the experience is a little different from Keep, as the task is saved with an auto-filled title, without asking you to set up a date and time before. You'll have to edit it to add those. Also, those reminders don't sync back to Google Assistant and aren't fully integrated in Calendar either.

The reminder action bubble appeared for WhatsApp and Telegram notifications, but not for messages from Google Messages, Gmail, or Twitter. I also had the best luck in triggering it with sentences like "don't forget x" or "please buy x" or "bring x."

In my experience, adding an exclamation point at the end may confuse the AI and cause it to not show up in some instances. Similarly, messages like "dinner tonight at 7:30 pm" didn't trigger it. Other sentences about meetings, events, and specific times don't seem to be supported either.

Two settings control all smart actions, so if you want to turn them off, you'll need to disable one of these:

  • Settings > Apps & notifications > Notifications > Advanced > Suggested actions and replies
  • Settings > Apps & notifications > Special app access > Adaptive Notifications (select "none")

Besides question marks about which app notifications it works in, which reminder apps can handle it, and which sentences trigger it, there are other unknowns about this action bubble.

We don't know what suddenly made it show up. It's live for me on a Pixel 4 with Android 10 and the July security patch, but I can't get it to appear on a OnePlus 7 Pro with Android 10 and the May patch. So could it be limited to Pixels? Maybe.

It might also be linked to the security patch, Google Play Services, or Device Personalization Services (which controls smart actions in notifications). Reverting to older app versions of these two doesn't make it go away, though, so it may be a server-side switch in either of them as well.

Just like it mysteriously showed up, this smart action might disappear soon — it wouldn't be the first time that happens, would it? I do find it useful, though, and wish it better integrated with Assistant reminders without necessitating Keep as the middleman.

  • Thanks:
  • Craig Kilgour