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The slim button on the left side of the new LG G7 ThinQ phone looks innocent enough. And when you press it, it opens up Google Assistant, a familiar and useful tool that's already baked in to today's Android phones.

But there's a problem here, and it's one we've seen Samsung commit to its Bixby Voice software on the Galaxy S9, Galaxy S8 and Note 8 phones. You can't reprogram the Google Assistant button, which LG calls the AI hotkey, to do anything other than launching Google Assistant, or, when you press twice, Google Lens

sing this hardware button will save time for some, and maybe even become second nature. However, it still traps you into opening the app that LG wants to to use, instead of opening the app you want to use.

And if you don't want to use it?  Well then, it becomes unnecessary hardware bloat.

However, there's a glimmer of hope. LG hinted that it's not wedded to a single-purpose AI hotkey, and that it might change its tune if enough people complain.

"It's possible we can find ways to make the button do more," said Frank Lee, LG's director of US public relations told a group of journalists, adding that LG will review reader input ahead of future updates.

Reprogramming a convenience key in the phone settings isn't hard. It's been done many times before, even by Samsung. The Galaxy S7 Active let you open one app when you pressed it quickly and a different app of your choice when you long-pressed the button. Locking you down to a single selection is a new practice, and one that's pissed off a fair numbers of reviewers and phone owners.

Then why did LG follow in Samsung's restrictive footsteps? LG said that tying the AI hotkey to Google Assistant was a collaboration between the two companies. "The idea here is that we're going to play to our strengths," Lee said. "Hardware's our strength."

The LG G7 will also stand out for being one of the first phones to use some new Google Lens features, which LG promised in a press release announcing the G7 ThinQ phone.

Still, LG's decision to lock the Google Assistant button to a single task validates Samsung's model of forcing phone owners' hand. The move that would set LG apart from Samsung is actually the opposite, one that gives buyers back control over that extra little button.



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