Ok - here's the deal. A Google Search update happened, which means it's teardown time. Normally I post about unreleased, work-in-progress stuff, but Google Now is so context dependent, that it's pretty much impossible for me to tell if something is implemented or not. The one thing I've learned from my months of using Now is that Google Now is in charge, and you're just along for the ride. So, for today's post, we're just going to shoot for "new things that didn't make it onto the 'What's New' list." If you can get them to show up, awesome. Send me a screenshot and I'll update. For the most part though, this article is going to raise a lot of questions, and not have many answers.

Since we're disqualifying things in the What's New list, (because we already know about them) we should probably take a look at it first:

What's in this version:

For Android 4.1+ (Jelly Bean), Google Search keeps getting faster, plus:
New cards:
- Events nearby
- Suggestions to help with your research
- Boarding passes from Gmail (United only, more to come)
- Search by camera when at museums or shops
- Weather at upcoming travel destinations
- Approximate monthly summary of walking and biking activity
- Birthdays
New voice actions:
- Post to Google+
- Say "What's this song?" to find the song you hear
- Say "Scan a barcode" to find product info

So then, what's in the code that's not in this list? A lot. For starters, there's some "beta" stuff that I'm pretty sure we aren't allowed to play with.

Reply To SMS With Voice


There are 3 new files that end with the word "beta." These all have to do with a "handsfree" mode, and there are a few new string entries that give us an idea of what's cooking.

<string name="permission_sms_voice_notification" />
<string name="permission_sms_voice_notification_desc">Allows starting up activity for handling sms notifications by voice.</string>

<string name="sms_notification">Text message. Say Google to continue.</string>
<string name="sms_notification_action_choice">Say call back, respond, or cancel.</string>
<string name="respond">Respond</string>
<string name="call_back">Call back</string>
<string name="sms_reply_dictation_start">Start dictating response.</string>
<string name="sms_reply_action_choice">Say okay, or cancel.</string>

So it sounds like there will be a mode that will take over SMS notifications. The description only states that it will "handle SMS by voice." It shows commands for replying by voice, and I would imagine that means reading texts out loud as well. This will probably be a toggle-able thing for driving. Can anyone get this to work now?

Contact Birthdays

<string name="birthday_view_contact">View contact</string>
<string name="birthday_wish">Wish happy birthday</string>
<string name="birthday_wish_gplus">Wish happy birthday on G+</string>

The What's New list mentions "birthdays" but that's rather ambiguous. It has shown your birthday for a while, but now it shows your contact's birthdays, too.


<string name="social_update_post_to_network">Edit in %1$s</string>
<string name="social_update_name_facebook">Facebook</string>
<string name="social_update_name_google_plus">Google+</string>
<string name="social_update_name_twitter">Twitter</string>
<string name="social_update_network_not_supported">"Can't post to this social network from this device."</string>

I found stings for doing voice command social updates for Twitter and Facebook. Facebook doesn't work, but Twitter does!

wm_2012-12-05 19.48.37wm_2012-12-05 19.48.43

It seems to only post the first part of your message for right now. This will also only work with the official Twitter app. I only had Falcon installed originally, and it gave me the "Can't post to this social network from this device" message.


Yes, you heard right, Android@Home is back from the dead. There's a new file called "at_home_card.xml" and a few new strings that have to do with home automation.

<string name="at_home_turn_on_lights">Turn on the %1$s lights</string>
<string name="at_home_turn_off_lights">Turn off the %1$s lights</string>

So I guess the plan is, you go buy one of the smart light bulbs they showed off a million years ago, and when you're at home, you'll have a Google Now card pop up that will let you control your lights. It would be a little dumb to have an app just for light bulbs, but a Now card would be perfect. Now if only they would actually release this stuff.

And yes, this is really Android@Home; the code is full of "com.android.athome" references.

Play Store Ratings?


There is a new file called "play_store_rating_bar.xml" and image files for the stars you would normally use to rate Play Store apps. Any idea why this would be here? Maybe one day Now will remind you to review recently installed apps. That would be handy. [Note from Cameron: Or annoying.]

Google Goggles Has Moved


If you thought the new camera search functionality was a lot like Google Goggles, you aren't alone. All the image search stuff is actually referred to as "goggles" in the app, so my guess is that the standalone version is going away. Just like the @home light bulbs, having an app just for image scanning is pretty lame. I welcome the convergence - it is a search, after all.

From the "interesting to no one but me" department, there's news that the Google Goggles Team each has a personal sandbox in the Google Search app that they are allowed to somehow access from the app. I found this in the array file:

<string-array name="goggles_development_frontends">

The first part of each URL is a name. A little bit of Googling and you can find out that "dpetrou" is David Petrou, "mbridges" is Matthew Bridges, etc. So say hi to the Goggles team. Hi Gogglers! How has the move been?

Now that we have everyone's name, a bit of stalking gets you posts like this...


...which further confirm that Goggles is now part of Search.

One last bit of bonus news: A few of these people also list themselves as being on the Project Glass team. So it's a safe bet you'll be able to use Goggles on actual goggles pretty soon.

That's it for this update. If you can somehow get voice SMS reply to work, or think you have an idea of what the ratings stars are for, let me know in the comments.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • noes

    Am I the only one that doesn't get notifications in the notification bar anymore? Weather or driving directions or my favorite sports teams score was always a notification pull away. Did this go away or is my phone being wonky?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1262814853 Michael Schiele

      I'm with you. I only get recommendations on my trip home and not even close to the normal time i leave work. Another thing. Does voice activation even work? I flipped mine on and screamed at my phone like an idiot. That thing doesn't even respond. What am i missing??

      • http://twitter.com/havens1515 Randroid

        Voice activation as in saying "Google" and making it search? I got it to work a while ago (haven't tried in any of the new versions) but Google Now has to be open already for it to activate, which seems kinda useless to me.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1262814853 Michael Schiele

          Precisely. I've been playing with the music ID bit for a little while and just realized if i say "google" inside the app, as you suggested, it indeed works perfectly. Why they wouldn't make that a global voice activator, i have no clue.

          Anyone else experiencing crashing with the music ID portion??

          • John O’Connor

            From what I am told this has to do with battery drain issues. Although I would think that they could come up with a low level "listening" API for when the screen is on. But I could see the benefits of being able to do the same with the screen off. I would love to see the ability to speak out loud and ask your phone to identify where it is... in case you misplace it somewhere in your house, office, car, etc.

          • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

            They dont want to have the microphone recording you 24x7. Some people have done that with apps for rooted phones but the problem is it kills the battery. Also people would be complaining about privacy if the phone mic was activated constantly.

      • http://twitter.com/NoBullet NoBullet

        it only works at the main screen for Google now.

    • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

      I still get things like "Time to Home" and weather. I havent gotten an audible notification yet because I only have it configured for bad traffic.

    • Simon Boulet

      I still have it. But I notice at one time that the weather card have the option notification to off. And I can't remember if I put it off myself or if it is the update.

      • noes

        Oh my, thank you for that. I was uninstalling, clearing data, restarting the phone. Seems they've added notification options in the settings of each card and i totally spaced out when i saw it until now. Not sure why they all got set to be off, but whatever. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.quevedo2 Aaron Quevedo

      Try changing the settings

    • http://twitter.com/NoBullet NoBullet

      My weather card was turned off after I updated. Everything else still shows up

  • http://twitter.com/Twitteninja ZZ

    Never stop Ron'ing, Ron.

    Maybe the Facebook voice action would work on a non-Nexus device running Jelly Bean like the Galaxy S3?

    • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

      Tried on a One X with 4.1.1, still not working.

  • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

    I love that Google is adding all of these useful features to Search. Or they would be useful if I wasnt always getting "sorry, cant connect to google" thanks to Sprint.

    • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

      Once i redid data services so I got a connection its working again. The "search with camera" works very well. Its much faster than finding Googles and opening the app like the "whats this song" is faster than Shazam.

      • Justin W

        Hahahaha, I always found with Shazam my problem was that by the time it opened, the song was nearly over with and it wouldn't catch enough data to determine the song (the last time I used Shazam was with my OG Droid). With the GPlay widget and now with GNow, I won't have that issue :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rahul-Mhatre/1017211701 Rahul Mhatre

        It says What's this song feature not suported on this device :-( God knows y ... Having One X ... Anyone facing the same ??

        • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

          No idea, I'm on a Nexus. Maybe its 4.1 only or that HTC Sense is interfering with it.

  • br_hermon

    Seriously Ron.... NEVER get tired of your teardowns. Keep em comin! :)

    • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

      Agreed, my favorite kind of post on AP!

    • Gav456


    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      Thanks <3

    • Alex Murphy

      Agreed, awesome breakdown man!

    • Itchy_Robot

      Agreed. It kind of gives a window in what is up and coming for the OS.

  • Kris

    If only they could make Google Now more battery friendly? I get lots of wakelocks because of it haha. It is awesome they are continually adding more and more useful features. I also like that they don't really make a big deal out of it like Apple does when they updated Siri to try and compete with Google Now.

    • Amit

      Me too !!! i Disable all apps bcoz of Battery hungry Attitude...

  • http://www.facebook.com/HenriqueMelissopoulos Henrique Melissopoulos

    About the stars, maybe if you search an app it shows information directly from Google Play.

    • http://www.facebook.com/abhikurve Abhi Kurve

      Exactly what i think.
      If one searches for a app through the browser, Card might show up which takes directly to play store.
      Although it looks silly as play store can be fired from browser.
      Or maybe if you visit sites like The Verge, it'll show up that a native android app is available!

    • Gav456

      Or maybe they intend to allow music searches via now, and it's for rating your collection on Google music online/local.

    • Vamsee

      me thinks it works like this: When an app prompts you rate it, you can rate the app in-situ (via the local rating image) instead of the app's prompt taking you to the play store just to rate it. But I admit that does sound like a bit of an obscure use-case.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abhikurve Abhi Kurve

    Love this APK teardowns, keep them coming.
    But i always wonder why does Google put future codes in the current versions?

    • Justin W

      It might make it easier to compile it later. That, or they are just in "beta" stage and it's less for us to install later? Maybe they just remove the "active" portion of the code before the update and can later add it back in so it's usable. There might be many reasons for this, but I'm not really sure which is correct.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      I wonder that too. I guess they just don't care.

      A get quite a few comments from Googlers on my posts, but I've noticed they stay away from teardowns.

  • Eric

    There's a birthday card in my Google now, a contact from g+.. I will send you a screenshot when I get home

  • http://btwnworlds.tumblr.com/ Lou G

    Post to google+ and twitter will make me use them more. Though I tried the google+ one and I never knew if it actually posted until I went to edit the post..so maybe I'm not doing it right.

  • HellG

    I want to hire some cheerleaders to come infront of your house Ron
    "Tear, oh tear 'em Ron"
    "Tear, oh tear 'em Ron"
    "Tear, Tear, Tear 'em Ron!"

  • http://www.theandroidsite.com benmarvin

    I'm getting the birthday card for Google+ contacts. Also a Research Products card that offers to take me to the website of the grocery store I'm nearby or scan a barcode.

  • dexgen

    Ron, if you go to show sample cards and click on the Card List under other cards, you can see what the birthday card looks like. :D

  • http://twitter.com/SportsAndTV Brian Pearcy

    They really need to make the birthday card work with the people app.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6706714 Ofir Fatal

    Ron, you're the reason I come back for more articles. Keep up the excellent work!!!

  • Maff Mace

    Yesterday I had a card come up asking if I wanted to continue my research and had a URL I had tried to get on the day before but it didn't work. I was going to bed so thought I'd look this morning but I haven't seen the card since!

  • Dev

    Hi just wondering, how do you decompile apks into eclipse projects on a mac?

  • Kree Terry

    So im thinking that google now is being mainly developed for google glass and that they are just beta testing it on android phones and tablets. I mean Now is perfect for project glass!!!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      That's interesting. The interface does look a lot like what they mocked up in the glass video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4

      (I'm going to start working on a big Glass post.)

      • needa

        i like that idea

    • codemonkey85

      That would explain why there are now voice commands for operating the camera for image search... I daresay voice commands will be the primary way of interacting with Glass.

  • PMDColeslaw

    It doesn't cut off the last word of your post to twitter. Saying "test update from Google" posts exactly that. Saying "Test update from Google now" posts "Test update from Google" because the app assumes "now" is a command and not part of the tweet. I tested several different times and everything posts fine except for when you end it with a command like "now"

    • Justin W

      Maybe you can set it to post it 20 minutes later? I'm not quite sure what use I'd have for it, but i'll have to test that, although I'm not really interested in downloading the official "Twitter" App... I've heard a lot of bad stuff about that one.

      • Justin Swanson

        Yeah, I sometimes use delayed SMS sends, but I don't know if I would need delayed social network statuses...

  • http://ignaciozippy.com/ Ignacio Zippy

    Well, the 'post to social networks' part sucks. What is this, S Voice? We have intents, they can do better than this.

  • http://www.maverickcreative.ca/ Joshua Richards

    None of this works on my Galaxy NExus on 4.2, with the app updated... maybe because I'm in Canada?

    • Justin Swanson

      Possibly, I bought my GNex from the play store, but use it with a Korean SIM card. I usually get all of the features (but I also use MarketAccess).

  • Maff Mace

    tried "what song is this?" tonight but it didn't search right, just seen I said it wrng and I have to be more specific and say "what's this song?"
    that's a bit silly

    • fajitatt

      I thought one had to be more specific as well, but my bro-in-law got this to work with multiple variations on his GNex: What's this song? What's the name of this song? What's this songs name? Even the version you used, "What song is this?" I'm going to have to test it again to see if I get better results.

  • Google_is_the_Higgs_Boson

    When you teardown these app's, do you break them all the way down, Revealing Java, and xml code? Would like to know how to do that? For learning purposes...

  • http://profiles.google.com/hephastus Kurleigh Martin

    Excellent work mate!

  • Avrohom Eliezer Friedman

    Sending SMS via Google Now isn't new - is it?

    • HebeGuess

      Indeed. Might be available since the beginning..

  • https://www.facebook.com/aaron.williams.125 Champion1229

    I know this may sound dumb but is there a way someone could tear down the .apk and find what url's Google Now is querying to get its info. It seems once you have the links it would be simple to compile everything from Chrome extensions to possibly an iPhone app.