The arrival of the Pixel 2 line-up in 2017 meant the introduction of Active Edge as a method for launching Google Assistant. We’re talking about the squeezy sides that the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL had that let you firmly grip your phone and fire up the Assistant in order to ask for help, control your smart home, whatever.
It was a clever feature that was likely adopted as an idea from HTC, who had used a similar idea in their own phones and also made the smallest Pixel 2. Google continued to include Active Edge in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 lines, only to retire it in the Pixel 4a. It has yet to make a comeback, although Android does now offer several other ways to launch Google Assistant.
As I was cruising through reddit this morning, someone mentioned how they missed squeezing their Pixel phone for Assistant and it then hit me – I too miss Active Edge. I used it all of the time to launch Assistant. It was for the longest time my preferred method and would probably still prefer it today.
Active Edge was great because as you held your phone in a normal manner, you could simply squeeze it a bit to fire up Assistant for help. As someone who has never liked to shout Google’s hotwords to launch Assistant, this feature always felt like it was built for me. It was weirdly one of the most personal features. It didn’t require swiping or yelling or precisely locating a power button – you just squeezed.
In today’s Android, at least on Pixel phones, Google gives you a long list of ways to launch Assistant. You can still shout “Hey, Google!” if you want. You can use the power button to launch it, setup a double-tap on the back of the phone, or swipe in from the bottom corners of the phone (if enabled).
None of them bring back memories of Active Edge and squeezing. In fact, I’m holding my Pixel 7 Pro right now squeezing away, thinking about how useful it would be to squeeze this phone for Assistant instead of any of those other methods I mentioned above.
I’m not sure that Google ever said publicly why they moved away from Active Edge, but it was probably a piece of internal kit they didn’t want to deal with or work around. With all of the other ways to launch Assistant, building in special hardware to do something that a power button or tapping could do doesn’t make much sense.
I wouldn’t be mad if Google brought it back, though.