Google has always been about search. And ads, of course. There was even a time when it almost looked like Google wanted everything on Android to be based on search as well. Not only would Android, or Google’s search app to be exact, be able to take a look at the apps, but it would also display the information and, if necessary, the controls directly in the search results. This, however, has been an exclusive feature of the Pixel launcher and the Google Search home screen widget, but Android 12 can finally share that ability with third-party launchers.
Universal device search, as it has been called, is not exactly a new concept. It has been around on the desktop for a long time, as in Windows Search and macOS Spotlight. Google’s implementation, however, seamlessly combines online search results and data on the device, sometimes making it unnecessary to even open the app to find the answer you were looking for.
This only works, however, if you’re using the Pixel launcher or if the Google Search widget is on your phone’s home screen. Third-party launchers, including those from some OEMs, have tried to implement their own version of device search, but with little success. At most, they can provide quick links to search for the same things in other apps and services, like searching the Google Play Store, for example.
Android 12 can be a tough nut to crack for third-party developers, as discovered by the Niagara Launcher developer. An AppSearchManager API, still in preview, appears to offer these same features, but is exposed to almost all applications that offer search functions.
This is definitely good news for developers of the myriad of Android launchers available, as it at least takes them one step closer to the previously exclusive functionality of Google. At the moment, however, it doesn’t seem to be available yet and it may be too early to invest in it until the final version reaches Android 12 beta.