Last year, Google debuted a new Assistant experience with the Pixel 4 that's deeply integrated with the phone. While other handsets (except for the Pixel 4a and 5 lines) still haven't received this redesign, a capability previously only available in it is finding its way to everyone, albeit in a limited fashion: In-app actions that help you quickly get to specific parts in your applications. There's also something new for everyone, regardless of whether or not you have the Pixel 4 or newer: You can assign custom voice commands to these actions.

Some in-app actions have already existed, such as "open [some app]," "search for [something] in [some app]," or "Send a message to [somebody] in [some app]." Only a few more advanced options are actually new. It's now possible to access friends' or celebrities' social media accounts directly via voice by saying something like "Open Selena Gomez on Instagram." Previously, Google Assistant would just open the app's search site with the corresponding query. There's also a new option to log your calorie intake with MyFitnessPal via a command such as "Log a berry smoothie on MyFitnessPal." This could come in handy when you use the Assistant for something like "Order Italian food on Postmates."

Google provides a few more examples, all of which should be now available on all Assistant-enabled Android phones:

  • Discord: “Hey Google, send a message to Rachel on Discord”
  • Etsy: “Hey Google, search for candles on Etsy”
  • MyFitnessPal: “Hey Google, log a berry smoothie on MyFitnessPal”
  • Mint: “Hey Google, check my accounts on Mint”
  • Nike Adapt: “Hey Google, tighten my shoes with Nike Adapt”
  • Nike Run Club: “Hey Google, start my run with Nike Run Club”
  • Postmates: “Hey Google, order a smoothie on Postmates”
  • Snapchat: “Hey Google, send snap with Cartoon Lens”
  • Spotify: “Hey Google, find Motivation Mix on Spotify”
  • Twitter: “Hey Google, check news on Twitter”
  • Walmart: “Hey Google, when is my Walmart order arriving?”

To see which of the apps on your phone take advantage of these new advanced actions, say "Ok Google, show my shortcuts," and you're taken to the Assistant settings where you can view all of the available actions. This shortcut section has been around for a while already, but the available options have been expanded (see the Twitter screenshots below). Like before, it's possible to tweak all of the voice actions to your liking if you have some often-used actions. At launch, Google supports "more than 30 of the top apps on Google Play available in English globally, with more apps coming."

 

Left: Assistant Shortcuts. Middle: Old Twitter shortcuts. Right: New Twitter shortcuts.

While you still won't get the redesigned Pixel-exclusive Assistant on other and older phones, this is a step in the right direction. It's a bummer that Chrome controls remain exclusive to the new Assistant for now, though — surfing the web via voice is a fun experience. Commands like "reply" when you're in a chat and "Show my cat photos" also either won't work at all (in the former case) or only within the Assistant interface, not inside the corresponding app (in the latter case).