Google Assistant already helps us organize our shopping lists and find out about things we’re interested in, but it stops short at actually letting us buy items. With a new feature rolling to Google Home, that’s about to change.
Google has announced that it is adding hands-free shopping to Google Express, letting you order household staples through the Home speaker. First discovered deep in the beta version of the Google App back in January, a new Payment option has gone live in the Assistant settings, letting you set up a preferred method for voice-activated ordering, a major step in Google Assistant’s fight against Amazon’s Alexa.
Head into the Settings menu of the Home app and you’ll see the new option for Payments under the Google Account section. This feature is separate from Android Pay, so tapping it will guide you through a series of steps that lets you store credit or debit cards that can be accessed by Google Assistant.
At the end of the process, you’ll see a Pay through your Assistant toggle that will need to be turned blue in order to activate the feature. Additionally, Google Home shoppers will need to enable “Personal results” in the More tab of the Home app settings.
So far, Assistant only works with Google Express, an online marketplace of more than 40 popular stores such as Walgreens, Costco, and Toys R Us. You can order things costing between $4 and $100 just by asking, and Google Home will give you a total, including tax and shipping, before you agree to purchase it.
As part of the launch, Google is eliminating shipping and service fees when ordering with Google Home, which runs through April 30. Orders placed for Costco items without a membership won’t incur the usual access fees during this period either.
While the Payment settings can be accessed via the Assistant settings on Pixel phones and the Google app, it appears as though voice ordering is limited to Google Home and doesn’t include its phones or other devices integrated with Assistant, such as Android Wear 2.0 watches.
Speak ‘n shop: Amazon Echo users have long been able to order things from Amazon without lifting a finger, and this new feature is clearly a move to directly compete with one of Alexa’s best qualities. While tying it to Google Express certainly limits its usefulness, building payments into Google Assistant is an important step in the virtual bot’s development. However, it’s surprising that Google doesn’t seem to have included a vocal passcode option to protect against unintended toy purchases by our chatty kids.