The battle of the voice assistants continues -- Google has caught up with Amazon's Alexa in making purchases touch-free and simple.
While Google Assistant may have the leg up on contextual search capabilities, Amazon’s Alexa has enjoyed a strong lead on the ability to make purchases. Google is catching up fast, though, as you can now make purchases with Assistant on Google Home.
The new functionality uses Google Express, the search giant’s shopping and delivery service, but you can only place orders with “participating Google Express retailers” — these include the likes of Costco, Whole Foods, Walgreens, PetSmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, and more than 50 other national and local retailers.
The service doesn’t seem to automatically add account information you already may have set up with other Google services like Android Pay or Google Wallet. Rather, you have to head into the Google Home app, pull out the navigation drawer, and tap More settings. Scroll all the way down until you see Payments. You’ll see any cards you have previously used to make purchases on your Google account, and you can select the one. You also have to add in your delivery address.
Google said you’ll be able to shop for everyday essentials “from paper towels to vitamins.” You can specify purchases by mentioning a retailer, or you can see what options you have buy just asking for home essentials like toilet paper.
You can say “OK Google, how do I shop,” for a quick tutorial, or once you have set up your payment method you can start ordering right away. The company says it will continue to add new features and enable purchases for other apps and services in the coming months. You also don’t need to worry about membership fees to retailers such as Costco, or to Google Express, until April 30.
Unfortunately, it does not look like you can make payments with Assistant on the Pixel. The Google Pixel recently received an update that added Home Control, though, so it’s a feature that’s likely on the way.
Adding payment functionality certainly helps make Google Assistant more competitive with Amazon’s Alexa, which has focused on online shopping and mobile payments since it first launched.
Article originally published in February. Updated on 02-16-2017 by Julian Chokkattu: Added official details about purchases on Google Home.