Google is ironically doing a Samsung. When it was first leaked that the second generation Pixel would feature HTC’s Edge Sense, there were mostly two reactions. One was skepticism in the usefulness of such a feature and the other was relief that it is, at least, not a locked down as the Bixby Button. While the former still has to be proven, the latter has sadly just been debunked. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL’s squeezable Active Edge feature is hardcoded to launch Google Assistant or mute the ringer and nothing else, putting it on the same boat as Samsung Bixby.
The whole controversy about the Bixby button probably wouldn’t have been as bad if Bixby was actually useful from the get go. Google Assistant is, of course, more mature and more integrated in many ecosystems, but that doesn’t really excuse Google from locking users to it. Like the Bixby button, developers have tried to come up with ways to circumvent Samsung’s lockdown, which Samsung actively tries to block. Unfortunately, the Pixel 2’s case might actually be worse.
XDA’s investigations lead it to discover that the squeeze gesture is actually hardcoded to launch Google Assistant and only Google Assistant. This means that any thing that tries to change the default assistant application to anything else will effectively disable the gesture even if it’s still enabled in the settings. There might be other methods available, but none of them are really practical nor efficient.
Contrast this to HTC’s implementation of its Edge Sense. The hardware could recognize soft and hard squeezes and trigger different actions for those. HTC even lets you configure which actions are taken, whether globally or within apps. HTC did right what Samsung got all wrong, and it’s a bit of a shock to see Google following Samsung’s footsteps instead.
It is very minimally understandable that Google wants to push its Assistant to Pixel 2 owners. To be fair, it is one of the more useful assistants anyway. But to shove it down users’ throats and lock them in is quite unbecoming, even for Google. We can only hope that Google will reconsider and push out an update that gives even a minimal amount of control to users.