Version 7.9 of the Google app began rolling out last night, but like so many other updates, this one doesn't appear to change much once it has been installed. However, it may be setting the stage for a number of things, both new and previously announced. A teardown of the APK brings to light some new features for at a glance visibility of travel information and storing search results and web pages for later use, plus a few follow-ups for topics we've seen before.
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.
Let's begin with an eerily named new feature called "Eyes." It's not a sure thing, but this may actually be the first substantial manifestation of Google Lens (aside from an icon a few months ago). The main elements to this one are a prompt asking users to "tap on what you're interested in" and a warning message about the phone being offline and unable to do anything at the moment, which means the feature clearly relies on a connection to Google's servers.
<string name="eyes_initial_prompt">Tap on what you're interested in</string>
<string name="eyes_initial_suggestion_0">What can you do?</string>
<string name="eyes_no_permission">I don't have permission to do that</string>
<string name="eyes_no_permission_camera">I don't have permission to use the camera</string>
<string name="eyes_no_permission_write_external_storage">I don't have permission to save files</string>
<string name="eyes_offline">Your phone's offline, so I can't help you with that at the moment</string>
<string name="eyes_share_with">Share with</string>
<activity-alias android:name="com.google.android.apps.gsa.staticplugins.opa.EnterOpaActivityEyesLauncher" android:enabled="false" android:exported="true" android:icon="@drawable/opa_app_icon" android:label="@string/opa_title" android:process=":search" android:targetActivity="com.google.android.apps.gsa.staticplugins.opa.EnterOpaActivity" />
<ImageView android:id="@id/eyes_button" android:background="@drawable/focusable_search_plate_element_background" android:paddingTop="16.0dip" android:paddingBottom="16.0dip" android:focusable="true" android:layout_width="fill_parent" android:layout_height="fill_parent" android:src="@drawable/quantum_ic_google_lens_grey600_24" android:tint="#ffbdbdbd" xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android" />
<FrameLayout android:background="@color/quantum_black_100" android:layout_width="fill_parent" android:layout_height="fill_parent"
<TextureView android:id="@id/eyes_camera_preview" android:clickable="true" android:layout_width="fill_parent" android:layout_height="fill_parent" />
<FrameLayout android:id="@id/eyes_image_layer" android:layout_width="fill_parent" android:layout_height="fill_parent" />
<View android:layout_gravity="bottom" android:id="@id/eyes_camera_preview_gradient" android:background="@drawable/eyes_camera_preview_gradient" android:layout_width="fill_parent" android:layout_height="@dimen/eyes_camera_preview_height" />
Other details include an entry point from the launcher, meaning users can expect to start Eyes from the home screen, and a "Share With" command that probably shows up after users have tapped on something and received information about it. Unfortunately, there's not much more to examine on this one.
If this really is Google Lens, and that seems likely, I wouldn't have expected to see pieces of it trickle into the Google app like this. There are a few layouts and strings, but not a large batch of additions like you would normally see from a feature that has supposedly been in development for a while. As usual, it's hard to judge things in the Google app, but based on the current resources, I doubt we'll see Eyes going live anytime in the immediate future.
Smartspace (a.k.a. At A Glance)
Using personal information stored in Gmail, Calendar, and Maps, Google is putting together a single "at a glance" access point for the most pertinent information about your day. If this sounds familiar, it's because we've already experienced this kind of thing in Google Now (now called Google Feed), and to a lesser extent in Google Home's "tell me about my day" feature. In the past, Google mixed in a lot of other information like news, weather, and recommendations with itinerary details, sometimes making it a little too easy to miss the important stuff.
Going by the name Smartspace internally, this appears to actually have the name "At A Glance" when it goes live. The current resources describe the settings, which are made up simply of toggles to turn each type of item on or off, including events on your calendar, unusual traffic on your regular commute, and information about your upcoming flights.
<string name="smartspace_settings_title">At A Glance</string>
<string name="smartspace_calendar_title">Calendar events</string>
<string name="smartspace_calendar_summary">Next upcoming meeting alerts</string>
<string name="smartspace_commute_title">Traffic information</string>
<string name="smartspace_commute_summary">Unusual traffic change alerts</string>
<string name="smartspace_flight_title">Upcoming flight information</string>
<string name="smartspace_flight_summary">Boarding times and flight alerts</string>
<string name="smartspace_no_settings">No Available Smartspace Settings</string>
<string name="smartspace_no_settings_msg">No available settings</string>
<Preference android:persistent="false" android:title="@string/smartspace_no_settings_msg" android:selectable="false" android:key="@string/smartspace_no_settings" />
<SwitchPreference android:persistent="true" android:title="@string/smartspace_calendar_title" android:key="smartspace_calendar_enabled" android:summary="@string/smartspace_calendar_summary" android:defaultValue="true" />
<SwitchPreference android:persistent="true" android:title="@string/smartspace_flight_title" android:key="smartspace_flight_enabled" android:summary="@string/smartspace_flight_summary" android:defaultValue="true" />
<SwitchPreference android:persistent="true" android:title="@string/smartspace_commute_title" android:key="smartspace_commute_enabled" android:summary="@string/smartspace_commute_summary" android:defaultValue="true" />
As it stands now, this seems like the type of information that will likely find a home at the top of the Google Feed, or perhaps even in a new variation on the transparent widget used in the Google Now Launcher.
Turning to a simpler addition, the Google app is going to be adding handy new commands for saving images and web pages for later. Google's search bar is often the fastest way to begin looking up something, but once you've found a page or picture that's useful, there isn't a great way to get back to it. You can copy the link or share it to another app, open the page in a separate browser where you can bookmark it, or you can even hit the download button to create an offline copy, but these all feel like extra work for something that should be dead simple.
Google appears to be building that simple solution with a new Favorites feature, which allows users to create lists where web pages and images can be saved for later. An internet connection is required at the time of saving, telling us that lists are saved to your account and accessible by other signed-in devices.
<string name="favorite_images_tag_title">Favorite images</string>
<string name="favorite_pages_tag_title">Favorite pages</string>
<string name="new_list">New list</string>
<string name="new_list_hint">List name</string>
<string name="save_to_list">Save to list</string>
<string name="saved_to">Saved to</string>
<string name="view_saved">View saved</string>
<string name="save_network_failure">Save failed. Check your internet connection and try again.</string>
<string name="save_not_signed_in">You must be signed in to use this feature.</string>
If you're thinking this sounds like bookmarks, it is. I don't know if there's a reason to create a new system; perhaps it will use some clever new analytics for recommendations or have a much nicer interface that wasn't viable with the bookmark system Google already provides, or maybe the Google app developers just wanted a clean break so users don't have to deal with hundreds or thousands of bookmarks that they've accumulated over the years... Well, whatever the reasoning, this is basically bookmarks.
Update: After being reminded about the Save to Google service, this certainly looks like the same thing. However, the new strings point to easier access, probably through the navigation bar, and a fully native implementation – the current one looks like it's web-based. Additionally, it should add the ability to save web pages, which appears to only be possible through the Chrome extension, for now. – Thanks, Willie Chalmers III.
The first piece of this is already available at the bottom of a search for images as a button titled "View Saved," but it still leads to what is clearly a non-adaptive web interface, including doubled-up overflow menus and a surprising amount of lag. Other elements aren't live yet, so there may be elements being implemented as they become ready.
Podcast support has been expected for a while, but it seems to be moving slowly as new elements only turn up a few months apart. In the latest update, there has been a quiet peep in the form of a new section title. Evidently, recently played podcast episodes will be listed, which might be pretty handy if a show was recommended by Google Assistant and users are interested in hearing it regularly – assuming that's something the Assistant will do.
Follow-up: Bisto / Google Headphones
The name "Bisto" turned up in a teardown back in April, hinting at a new device running Google Assistant. The new line in this update is merely an encouragement to complete the setup of headphones, but doesn't reveal much beyond what the previous teardown already established. However, the language is a bit more direct and indicates that there has to be a dedicated setup step or process for headphones, which means Bisto either puts a lot of emphasis on having a connection to headphones, or Bisto is actually a pair of headphones with onboard Google Assistant.
Version: 7.9.15 beta