Pixel Launcher universal search can let you search multiple apps, can get to third-party launchers

Get ready for some “seek” semantic satiety

When you think of a Pixel, you might think of a great camera, features like automatic call screening or even the many Pixel errors, but there are other benefits to ownership. Pixel Launcher is so popular that some people install third-party home screen replacements to mimic what it looks like. In Android 12, it retrieved the universal search with support for finding screenshots, widgets and even queries in Google Search – as by “google” it. According to a recent demolition, it can pick up the same level of search integration to find things in Maps, YouTube, Settings and Play Store. And based on a recent bug submitted to the troubleshooter, third-party launcher integration for universal search is on Google’s roadmap.

Details are sparse right now, but a handful of strings dug up by 9to5Google in a newer version of the Android System Intelligence app (which manages Pixel Launcher integrations) indicate that search integration for these services is on the way. It’s impossible to say exactly how it might behave until it’s rolling out, but in Pixel Launcher you can search for content via Google Search by sending a typed query to the Google app. This can do the same thing by opening the associated apps and typing your text into a search box inside them.

Submit a universal search query in the Pixel Launcher to search for it in Google Search in the Google app. (Search search search search.)

We should point out that the Settings app already has Pixel Launcher integration for certain types of shortcuts – such as quick access to switches like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, among others – that pop up when you search for them. This change may add the ability to send search through to the Settings app to find some of the items that are not otherwise displayed (a lot of items in Settings not).

It is not clear when the feature is scheduled to be launched, and like all features in development seen in crashes, it may not work out. Google may wait to release it as part of a quarterly Feature Drop, it may be announced at the upcoming Google I / O event, it may release it along with a hardware product, or it may land as part of Android 13. We should also note that universal search in Pixel Launcher is broken in Android 13 Beta 1, a possible indicator that changes (potentially even) are on the way.

We’ve been hoping that Pixel Launcher’s universal search feature would come to third-party launchers, since Android 12’s developer documentation indicated that there was an API for it, but it’s apparently locked to pre-installed apps. A recent response to Google’s IssueTracker, seen by Niagara Launcher developers, indicates that work is underway on third-party launcher support for the universal search feature, thanks to some changes to how app roles work. This means that popular home screen replacements like Niagara, Nova Launcher and Action Launcher might be able to use it one day. (Action Launcher already has its own Action Search feature, which is similar, but this would add even more search integrations.)

There’s no telling whether extended launcher support for universal search will land as part of Android 13 or a future release, but it sounds like Google is actively figuring out how to bring it to third-party launchers.

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