There's another version of the Google app floating around in the wild, and as we've probably become accustomed, it doesn't appear to make any notable changes upon installation. However, there are some interesting elements floating around in the apk. In this update, we can see the first signs of support for making calls with Google Home and a new action that allows users to manually reroute voice commands to the device in their hand. There's also a new feature that looks at your notifications in an effort to give easier access and suggests about your contacts and messages.

Teardown

Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that plans could change or may be canceled entirely. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.

Calling through Google Home

Google announced this one at I/O, so it's far from a surprise that things are starting to show up in the Google app. Think of this section as a status update.

In case you missed it, the announcement at I/O declared that it will soon be possible to use Google Home a bit like a speakerphone. More specifically, you'll be able to start and carry through a call on Google Home. There were still a lot of unanswered questions, but a few of those might be cleared up with this teardown.

To begin with, some people have predicted that the call still occurs through the caller's phone, but the audio is traveling over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, while others have suggested a phone number will be linked to Google Home and calls will be made through the Google Voice infrastructure. It appears that the latter of the two is the winner. Some of the new strings show that users will link their phone service to Google Home for outgoing calls.

Another common question is whether or not people will be able to answer incoming calls through Google Home. At the moment, only outgoing calls are mentioned in the strings, which hints that incoming calls might not be supported. On the other hand, this implementation doesn't look finished, and support could be added in the future, so this is far from conclusive.

code

<string name="assistant_settings_active_phone_service_category_title">Linked phone services</string>
<string name="assistant_phone_preference">assistantPhone</string>

<string name="assistant_settings_more_phone_servicer_category_title">Other phone services</string>

<string name="assistant_settings_phone_title">Phone</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_phone_default_snackbar_text">%1$s is your default phone service.</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_phone_link_dialog_text">Link your Google Account to %1$s to make calls on Google Home through Google Assistant.</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_phone_no_preference_title">Anonymous</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_phone_no_preference_summary">You will appear as unlisted to others</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_phone_service_category_title">The Assistant will use the phone service provided below for outgoing calls on Google Home. E911 is not available.</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_phone_unable_unlink_default">Cannot unlink your default phone service.</string>

Manual control over which Assistant answers

Staying with the topic of Google Home, but going wider to all devices that run Assistant, it looks like Google is still working working out the best way to handle multiple always-listening devices. A new line of text has been added that will be used to give direction to the Assistant that the device in your hand is the one that should be responding.

<string name="opa_mult_devices_answer_on_phone">Answer Here</string>

There are no clear signs about how this line will be used, but it looks like it will be a button on the toast message. That is to say you'll probably have a brief span of a second or two after a command is claimed by another device when you'll be able to insist it should be handled on your phone.

2017-06-07 02.19.41

Obviously, we all want voice commands to be handled by the perfect device each time, but since that would take some bewilderingly perfect artificial intelligence and perfect knowledge of context, that's pretty unrealistic. Most of us expect commands to at least route to the device that can handle them, not to be sucked into the black hole that is a Google Home when certain commands only work on a phone. I welcome the option to manually tell Assistant to answer on my phone. It may be a hacky workaround, but at least it gives us an out that doesn't require whispering into a phone mic or walking over to the Home unit to hit a mute button.

Independence Day [US-Only]

There's actually nothing special to say here – Google just added a new line for activities scheduled for July 4th, which is Independence Day in the United States.

<string name="july_4th_activities">July 4th activities</string>

I don't have much to read into about a line like this, but I am going to predict those of us in the US will see this in a little less than a month. :p

Notification access for easier access to contacts and messages

If you were paying much attention to Google I/O, you may have caught that Android O is bringing a quirky new feature called Notification Dots. In short, the Google Launcher will draw a little dot over the corner of app icons when they have pending notifications. It seems Google may have another feature planned that will also begin watching your notifications. Several new lines describe a feature that will "help you find your contacts and messages," but it needs to watch your notifications to do that.

code

<string name="notification_accessable_apps_category_title">Notification access</string>
<string name="notification_access_desc">Google uses notifications you've received on this device to help you find your contacts and messages. This is done solely on this device and these results are only shown to you.</string>
<string name="notification_enabled_apps_title">Select the apps you'd like to include:</string>
<string name="notification_access_link_text">Turn off notification access</string>
<string name="notification_menu_message">To give Google access to your notifications, tap the toggle above next to Google. You can change this access from Settings &gt; In Apps.</string>

<string name="notification_onboarding_title">Want to see more contacts?</string>
<string name="notification_onboarding_body">To see more relevant contacts and messages, turn on notification access. This means that Google can read notifications from all apps and keep the information private on your phone.</string>
<string name="notification_onboarding_dismiss_button_text">NOT NOW</string>
<string name="notification_onboarding_learn_more_text">Learn more</string>
<string name="notification_onboarding_optin_button_text">GO TO SETTINGS</string>

Reading through the new strings is a little disappointing because they only give a (very vague) sales pitch about what the feature is supposed to achieve – helping you to find your contacts and messages – and that it wants permission to do this. However, there isn't even a hint about what users can actually expect to see as an end result.

In fact, the most notable thing to take from the wording is that Google is very specific that all data collected for this feature is stored locally on your device and won't be going to the cloud. While privacy is certainly important, and it's not surprise Google wants to be cautious, this means users won't have cross-device syncing or some of the more clever features that rely on server-based processing.

Two other small notes can be taken from the text, though they aren't terribly helpful. The first is simply that users can configure which apps will be watched, so it'll be possible to effectively ignore notifications that are misleading to the system or you might not want to have mixing into your results.

The second detail is that the option to include or exclude apps from this feature is in Settings –> In Apps, which is currently where apps are enabled for deep search. This might suggest information from notifications will also turn up through the search field, just like deep search does now, but that feels like a bit of a leap in logic.

Perhaps there will be more to learn when the next update begins rolling out.

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.

Version: 7.4.15 beta

Google
Google
Developer: Google Inc.
Price: Free