The arrival of the Pixel 2 line in 2017 meant the introduction of Active Edge as a launch method for Google Assistant. We’re talking about the narrow sides of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, which let you hold your phone tight and launch the assistant to ask for help, control your smart home, and so on.
It was a smart feature that was probably taken as an idea from HTC, who used a similar idea in their phones and also made the smallest Pixel 2. Google kept including Active Edge on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 lines, only to remove it in Pixel 4a. It has yet to make a comeback, although Android now offers a few other ways to launch Google Assistant.
This morning while I was surfing Reddit, someone mentioned how they missed squeezing their Pixel phone for Assistant and then it dawned on me – I too much I miss Active Edge. I used it all the time to launch Assistant. This has been my preferred method for a long time and is probably still my preferred method today.
Active Edge was great because when you hold your phone in a normal position, you can just squeeze it a little to launch Assistant for help. As someone who never liked shouting Google’s hot-words to launch Assistant, this feature always felt like it was made for me. Oddly enough, it was one of the most personal traits. It didn’t require swiping, yelling, or pinpointing the power button—just a tap.
In today’s Android, at least on Pixel phones, Google gives you a long list of ways to launch Assistant. You can still yell “Hey Google!” if you want. You can use the power button to launch it, set up a double tap on the back of your phone, or swipe from the bottom corners of your phone (if enabled).
None of them are reminiscent of Active Edge and compression. In fact, I’m holding my Pixel 7 Pro right now, squeezing it, thinking about how useful it would be to compress that phone for Assistant instead of any of those methods I mentioned above.
I’m not sure Google ever publicly stated why they dropped Active Edge, but it was probably part of an internal suite they didn’t want to deal with or get around with. With all the other ways to launch Assistant, making special hardware to do something that could be done with the power button or pressing doesn’t make much sense.
I wouldn’t be mad if Google brought it back.