Most of us use Google Search to start a web search using Google and now Android P has integrated a new feature called App Slices to enhance its features.
The engineers at Google have put a lot of focus into an A.I. sort of feel thanks to the technology they have learned from machine learning. Last week I covered a new feature of Android Pie that would actually predict not only certain applications but also certain application actions. These App Actions are displayed at the top of the App Drawer which is what I lot of people do when they are searching for an application to start a new activity.
Google monitors which parts of the Android operating system that people use the most, they are then able to make those parts even better. That’s where we are today with the new Android Pie feature called App Slices. It’s actually quite familiar to the App Actions but this time the recommended suggestions are displayed in the results section of the Google Search application as you are typing for something.
Learning Yout Habits
As with the other two features discussed here in Android Pie, the entire goal is to start understanding what you do with your smartphone. Before Android Pie, the Google Search application search bar sat on a lot of people’s Home Screen. Anytime people wanted to do a web search on Google then they would tap that search bar widget and then start typing what they were looking for. This process became very popular as it was much easier to do than opening a web browser first.
This process became incredibly habitual for a number of people for the simple reason that it was faster than its alternatives. Most phones these days can do just about everyone else the other phones can. So it’s the phones that can do things better, faster, and smoother that stick out from the competition. So Google thought if people are using this search bar a lot to check on things, how could we integrate that into the Android OS itself.
Combined with Google Assistant
During the same development time that App Actions was being worked on, another team had their hands busy on the feature we’re talking about today, App Slices. The goal was to allow application developers to designate “slices” of applications (and the results of when someone searches an application) so they could surface them to the user. This can actually happen in a number of different ways.
Google has two ways to deliver content to you with one being the Android phone with Google Assistant and the other being products like Google Home, Google Mini, and any other devices that have Google Assistant built into them. Just like features like App Actions and App Slices, the entire goal of Google Assistant is to bring you the content you want in the quickest, fastest, and most convenient way possible.
App Slices + App Actions + Google Assistant
So, now developers can set up their application so they can display rich, dynamic, and interactive content thanks to App Slices. These same developers are also working on learning your habits through the new Android Pie feature called App Actions. App Actions has its limits though as it requires you to open up the App Drawer and it needs to be at the same time or place that you usually do it. So with App Slices within the Google Search bar, things are a bit more interesting.
App Slices can plug into any application that its developers have added support for. Take a look at this example we have above. Someone has opened up the Google Search dock widget and began typing Hawaii. That is all the person typed and Google Search did what it has always done. It asks if the person wants to search for popular terms like Hawaiian BBQ, Hawaii Weather, or the Hawaiian Islands. But go ahead and take a look at the very bottom part of the photo
Google’s own Google Photos has been programmed to support App Slices. Again, remember the only thing the person has typed in is the term Hawaii so Google Photos has taken that common search term and gone through all the photos this person has on their account. It will look through photos that have the location set as Hawaii, it can have photos that you have tagged Hawaii, or it can even pull photos that just have the word Hawaii typed out. The whole point here is that App Slices has possible made things easier on you.
New Features Take Time
Now, I will admit that new features like this can take some time to get used to. I mean, if this person was looking for images of Hawaii that they took then they would just open up the Google Photos app and use the intelligent search feature that is built into it. This makes a lot of sense but what do you think will happen when someone with Android Pie uses this feature more and begins seeing other types of App Slices pop up when they are just using their phone.
Think about those people who are using services like Lyft and Uber who do all of that through a dedicated application. They would need to open the app, wait for it to load and then do all of the work that makes these applications so convenient. These two can be replaced by App Slices as long as the developer starts to support them. They could then type in something like work, and if the application recognizes it because you use it a lot, then the whole thing would be displayed right in the Google Search application.
Could be a Slow Roll Out
Now, I’m not going to say that as soon as you get Android Pie on your smartphone that you will begin to see all of these new features at your fingertips. I mean, we have had granular application permissions with Android Marshmallow and there are still developers who have refused to support this feature into their developers. So, then we take that into account plus the fact that a lot of the new features of Android Pie takes time to learn your habits and usage patterns.
The image above even gives us some more examples of ways App Slices can make our smartphone usage more convenient. You may have been interrupted from watching a YouTube video to go do some chore or take care of a crying baby. With that out of the way, you can fumble through the Overview apps looking for the application or you can just type YouTube in the Google Search application. For a few releases, Android has had a search box at the top of its Settings application.
I personally felt odded out by this but over time it has grown on me. And here is yet another way that App Slices can help us because we no longer have to open up the Settings application just to find that 1GB Mobile Data toggle that we had previously set in on our phone.
So here’s to hoping that a lot of developers begin including support for this new feature into their applications. Some may feel it will ruin the developer’s plan as it may stop the user from exploring the other areas and features they have worked hard to build into it. We will just have to wait and see what happens because a lot of the new feature that Google adds to Android are not mandatory and can take time to trickle down to the majority of apps, users, and devices.