The Google app is an interesting beast within the Android Ecosystem. It provides speech recognition, Google Now, multiple APIs, and even a launcher. Next to Google Play Services, the Google app is by far the most multi-faceted apk most of us have on our phones and tablets. The latest couple of updates teased users of the Android M Developer Preview 3 with brief access to Now On Tap before it was quickly taken away with a promise that it was still "coming soon". There were also a few other smaller details waiting to be found in a teardown, including the likely return of rotation support on the Google Now Launcher and some more forward motion for offline voice commands.

Teardown

Disclaimer: Teardowns are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete evidence. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. There is always a chance that details may change or plans may be cancelled prior to the launch of a new feature discovered in a teardown. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced.

Screen Rotation in the GNL

For those that have been following along with the Android M Developer Preview updates, or at least our coverage of the changes, an often-requested feature turned up in Preview 2: the Google Now Launcher supported screen rotation. Of course, the GNL has supported screen rotation on tablets for a long time, but this was the first time it appeared on phones. As suddenly as it had come, screen rotation was taken away again with Dev Preview 3.

[Clarification: There seems to be some confusion about this. For people that turned on auto-rotation in Dev Preview 2, the setting persisted through the upgrade to Dev Preview 3, even though the option to toggle it was removed. A fresh install of Dev Preview 3 does not offer auto-rotation.]

While these changes occurred with developer preview versions of the Google App, the regular version showed no signs of rotation support. That is, until now. Version 5.3 adds in the same string and an item for the Settings screen that will turn on rotation support. It's currently not visible on any device I've checked, which means Google is probably saving it for a release with Android 6.0, even if it should work on older versions of Android.

<string name="allow_rotation_title">Allow rotation</string>

<header android:id="@id/launcher_settings_allow_rotation" android:title="@string/allow_rotation_title">
<extra android:name="TYPE_SWITCH" android:value="yes" />
<extra android:name="LAUNCHER_PREF_KEY" android:value="pref_allowRotation" />
</header>

When this feature is enabled, a toggle for it will appear in the main Settings screen of the Google Now Launcher below the Home Screen section. There is already an option to disable App Suggestions in that location, so Allow rotation will appear next to it.

Miscellaneous Images

There are also a few new images in this release. While there's nothing special to say about them, I haven't personally noticed them in use, so they're worth posting for curious minds and designers to comb over. [correction: whoops, they're used in the app drawer when a search term turns up no results. Thanks, Dyan_Branielson.]

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Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

File Name: com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox-5.3.23.19.arm-300515416-minAPI19.apk

Version: 5.3.23.19.arm (300515416)