Google today updated the beta version of its Google app for Android with shortcuts to various potentially useful widgets, which are, for the most part, delivered through Google search results within the app. The new features do not appear to be available in the Google app for iOS, or for people whose accounts aren’t enrolled in the Google app beta.
The shortcuts appear at the very top of the Google Now home screen, which is available when you tap inside the Google Search box widget or swipe right from the home screen on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. If you’re on version 6.10.35 of the Google app beta, you’ll see a weather shortcut, which shows the location and temperature, alongside an icon representing the weather. It also shows widgets for nearby restaurants, Solitaire, “I’m feeling curious” (which shows a random question and answer), a calculator, nearby ATMs, Tic Tac Toe, a coin flip, My Events (which displays upcoming events listed in your Google Calendar), and nearby coffee shops. This row is updated based on which shortcuts you use.
If you tap the View All button at the end of the row of shortcuts, you’re brought to a page with these widgets organized into high-level categories: Nearby, Entertainment, Tools, Fun, Weather, Travel, and My stuff. In addition to My Events, the My Stuff section contains shortcuts like “My emails,” “My flights,” and “My hotels.”
Although many of these features are accessible by just searching Google for certain terms, the revamp, with its smorgasbord of tappable options, amounts to a rethinking of the function of Google on mobile and brings the app closer to the Google Assistant that is the hallmark of the Pixel phones and Home smart speaker. The idea is to employ smart software that lets you cut through the internet’s never-ending maze of information and quickly carry out actions or find a single bit of information.
If cards in Google Search results marked an early step in the evolution of search, then Google Now was a more direct step. The Google Assistant easily exceeds both of those, as it has Google instantly providing you with what it thinks is the best answer to your question or statement, as opposed to listings digestible in groups of 10 or a series of cards Google suspects are relevant. But the Assistant is currently limited to just a handful of devices.
The Google App, by contrast, is far more pervasive; it’s been downloaded on more than 1 billion devices, according to its Google Play Store listing.
Last month, Google added an Upcoming tab to the Google App that sits alongside the existing card feed.
“We’re always experimenting with the look and feel of Search, but have nothing to announce at this time,” a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.