There is a new webpage for WhatsApp that indicates the company has built an Action for Google Assistant. A leading Alexa and Google Assistant developer in France, Quentin Delaoutre, was the first to spot this page in the wild. The page indicates that WhatsApp is in the “Social & Communication” category for Google Assistant and it suggests three action phrases such as, “Send a WhatsApp message,” and “Send a voice message.”
But, WhatsApp Doesn’t Appear to be Active Yet
Despite the existence of this page, and the 4.4 star rating, it appears that the Assistant app for WhatsApp may not yet be live. A typical invocation like, “Talk to WhatsApp” on Google Assistant returns a web search with WhatsApp FAQs. “Open WhatsApp,” delivers a link to the WhatsApp webpage. Using the first two action phrases suggested on the page returns the familiar, “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help. But I’m still learning.” A query on Google Home returns the response, “Sorry, I can’t send messages yet.”
The third action phrase to, “Send a voice message” brings me not to WhatsApp but to iMessage as I was testing on iPhone. That implementation isn’t really seamless as even after it records the message and confirms by voice, I still have to click send because Apple doesn’t offer that level of integration to Google. Siri can do the entire thing by voice and I assume Google Assistant on Android delivers a similar experience. None of this experience is remotely WhatsApp related.
Couldn’t Google Assistant Already Work with WhatsApp
The integration of Google Assistant with the default SMS app for the phone has been available since March. Techware Guide suggested a method for sending messages from WhatsApp in March as well, but I assume that only works on Android as I could not recreate the experience on iOS. With that said, interacting with an Android app using Google Assistant is a different integration than having a custom Google Assistant app optimized for voice. The assistant.google page for WhatsApp suggests something more than simple mobile app activation.
I do have WhatsApp on my iPhone so I have met that requirement, but there is not a clear way to link my account with Assistant. One more clue that WhatsApp is not ready for go-live is that it is not listed in Google Assistant’s Social & Communication app directory. The current app directory includes the messaging apps Text Messages, Chalk Talk and Starfish Actions for Google Assistant, but no WhatsApp.
Messaging Will Be Important to Voice Assistants
It is obvious that WhatsApp would want to be on Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and every other platform it can access. WhatsApp has the world’s largest messaging user base and it wants those users on mobile to follow the brand to voice assistants as well. I would expect Facebook would also want to get Messenger on Google Assistant as well.
Voice assistants are the key existential threat to the current messaging app leaders. If we all start using a preferred voice assistant and it has a native messaging feature, then based on convenience we may slowly shift out usage away from our current messaging app. The challenge for messaging apps is that the voice assistants are clearly going to be available in smart speakers, appliances, IoT devices, cars and yes, smartphones.
Amazon is Also Working on SMS / Messaging Feature
To drive this point home, Voicebot was the first to discover that Amazon is developing an SMS feature for Alexa. Earlier in the year, messaging was added to Alexa so users can send and receive text messages by voice through Amazon Echo, other Alexa-enabled devices and in the Alexa app. Recent code additions to the Alexa app suggest that Amazon is not content just using their own app and devices. The company also wants users to have a unique phone number that likely can be used for both calling services and text messaging.
Messaging by voice and text are an important communication method that are likely to be core services offered by all leading voice assistants. Texting was one of the first important use cases for Siri and it remains commonly used today. It is import for companies like WhatsApp to stake out their own voice assistant messaging territory while consumer habits are being formed. This can increase usage of messaging and ensure that the winners of the mobile messaging wars aren’t co-opted by the rise of voice assistants. Let me know on Twitter if you are able to get WhatsApp to work with Google Assistant on Android or other devices.