The Google Assistant app might not be listed on the South African Play Store just yet, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work here.
With a few jukes and sidesteps, here’s how you can get the new Google Assistant app running and functioning on your smartphone right now.
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1. Check your smartphone for these apps and features
Before we get started, I should point out one thing: Assistant won’t be compatible with every smartphone.
Your device will need to meet the below minimum hardware and software requirements:
- Google app version 6.13 or higher must be installed to your device
- You’ll need Google Play Services installed and updated to its latest version
- You’ll need a smartphone with at least 1.5GB of RAM
- The phone will also need a screen with at least a 720p resolution
- Your device’s Android version needs to be 6.0 Marshmallow or higher
2. Change your default language
Assistant might be intelligent, but it’s also fussy.
It doesn’t quite understand English (South Africa) yet, so you’ll need to change the default language on your phone to one of the following:
- English (US, UK, Canada, India, Australia)
- French (France, Canada)
- Portuguese (Brazil)
English (UK) should be the best option for South Africa. Google claims more languages are “coming soon”.
3. Download the app, and install it
Once your language is tweaked, you can download the APK — the app installation package.
- Open your mobile browser and navigate to APKMirror
- Hit the blue “Download APK” button beneath the “Verified safe to install” caption
- Once downloaded, navigate to your Downloads folder and tap on the APK file (the filename should end in .apk)
- At this point, you may need to temporarily allow the installation of apps from “Unknown Sources” option
- This option can be adjusted in your device’s Settings > Security menu if Android doesn’t automatically prompt you
- Once installation is complete, tap on the “Open” prompt to run Assistant
Note: we’ve never had an issue with APKMirror, but do note, downloading and installing APKs not listed on the Google Play Store is done at your own risk.
4. Configure Google Assistant
After opening it for the first time, Assistant will ask you to utter “Ok Google” three times. This is for voice activation purposes. After this, voice activation should be complete, but you can choose whether you want voice or keyboard to be your default method of interaction.
To do this:
- Navigate to the Assistant icon on your phone’s homescreen, and tap it
- Once the app is open, tap the blue triangle icon in the top-right
- Alongside “Your Stuff” tap the three-dot menu and select “Settings”
- Scroll down to “Phone”
- Select the “Preferred input” menu item
- A box will appear, and select your desired input method
A number of other settings are available to tweak, including “Ok Google” activation, shortcut prompts and sources for daily news readouts. We recommend you having a look at each, and get to know Assistant well. Maybe take it to a movie?
The issues with this method
While the APK installation method is great to experience an app before it’s released to the wider audience, it does come with its issues.
For one, the app will not update automatically through the Google Play Store. You’ll need to navigate to APKMirror regularly to check for an updated version of the app, and reinstall it. This shouldn’t remove your settings though.
Additionally, changing your device’s default language may be an issue. The list of supported languages remain thin at present, and we’re not completely sure when Google will support South Africa’s other official languages.
Nevertheless, if you want to use the standalone Google Assistant app right now, without opening the likes of Allo or the Google app beforehand, the above guide is the way to do it.