Copilot Chat in GitHub's mobile app is now generally available

GitHub on Tuesday announced that Copilot Chat, its AI chat interface for asking coding-related questions and code generation, is now generally available in its mobile app. The Microsoft-owned developer platform first announced this feature last November.

At first glance, a mobile app may not be the most obvious place to use GitHub's Copilot Chat. That's not, after all, where developers do their work. But GitHub is betting that there are quite a few use cases for Copilot Chat on mobile that make this a worthwhile effort.

As Mario Rodriguez, GitHub's recently promoted SVP of Product, told me, the mobile app is already very popular for performing tasks like starring repos and some of the social features GitHub has to offer. Many developers are also using the app, which launched in late 2019, to quickly review small pull requests while on the go. Some developers are also already using Copilot Chat, which launched on mobile in beta a few months ago, to ask additional questions about those pull requests.

General coding questions are also a popular use case. "We see that a fair amount: You're on the go, maybe with friends, and someone asks you a question. You're like, 'well, actually, I don't remember the details of that, so let me look that up really quick and ask Copilot [...]," Rodriguez explained.

Some developers, too, are using the mobile chat feature to ask questions about specific repos while on the go.

"Mobile is usually optimized to get a task done," Rodriguez said when I asked him how the team thinks about designing for mobile. "If you think about the way that we have done our mobile interfaces, it's optimized to get a task done because if you are on the go, the time for you to do something to completion is very short at times. You might be just having coffee and you might only have five minutes before the kids wake up and come down the stairs. So you want to get something done very, very quickly."

To enable this, the Copilot icon is now front-and-center in the mobile app. "When you open the mobile app, there's a little Copilot icon right there, and it's very quick to start a conversation with Copilot and get the answer you need," Rodriguez said. "I think the innovation that we're bringing to the mobile device at the very beginning is going to be mainly that: How can we get you to that answer very quickly."

But he also said that the company's future vision is quite a bit broader and more akin to what GitHub is doing with its recently announced Workspace, which the company describes as a "Copilot-native developer environment" that allows developers to use natural language to plan, build and test code in natural language.

"I think how we want to evolve Copilot is not only about, OK, let's help you get some tasks done, but really take it to the next level and really get you to create a program in your natural language in a very quick way," Rodriguez said. He said that this could enable many people who aren't trained as developers to build tools that help them get their jobs done faster.