The latest update to the Google app is rolling out to beta channel members right now. There aren't any immediately obvious changes on the surface, but as the tradition often goes, there are some things under the hood worthy of discussion in a teardown. This version brings a pretty good indicator that 8.1 will be the next version of Android. There are also signs that user-defined actions are going to get some changes in the future. We're also going to hit an option to turn off the built-in screenshot handler and a little bit more about Google's upcoming "Bisto" headphones.

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.

Android v8.1, API 27

It was pretty predictable, but I think we all like to see confirmation. The next version of Android is probably going to be 8.1, and naturally will become API level 27.

<manifest package="com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox" platformBuildVersionCode="27" platformBuildVersionName="8.1.0" xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android">

For those that don't know, this information comes from the SDK that is used to build every APK. Apps are configured to use a specific version of the SDK, and the necessary details are bundled in so the Android operating system knows how to treat them. For reference, the previous version of the Google app was shipping as OMR1 (Oreo Master Release 1) and API level 26.

<manifest package="com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox" platformBuildVersionCode="26" platformBuildVersionName="OMR1" xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android">

What this means is that Google's developers (at least some of them) are now using the Android 8.1 SDK to build apps. In all likelihood, this version will launch alongside the next Pixel phones in about a month or so. The same thing happened last year with Android 7.1, which followed 7.0 by only a couple of months and shared the Nougat name. Naturally, we can expect the Oreo name will remain consistent across both 8.0 and 8.1, as well. There probably won't be a lot of huge new additions, but as we saw last year, the .1 release did come with a few new tricks up its sleeve.

Turning off Google's screenshot handler

Earlier this year, Google began rolling out a built-in screenshot tool with some basic cropping and drawing capabilities. It's probably a good addition for the average user, and even many power users, but there are always a few people that prefer to use their own solution or simply don't want anything to pop up after taking a screenshot. Google will be adding a toggle to turn off its screenshot handler.

strings
<string name="use_sharebear">Let the Google App handle screenshots</string>
<string name="use_sharebear_subtitle_when_disabled">The Google App will not interact with screenshots</string>
<string name="use_sharebear_subtitle_when_enabled">The Google App will offer a custom edit and share flow for screenshots</string>

<SwitchPreference android:persistent="true" android:title="@string/use_sharebear" android:key="use_sharebear" android:defaultValue="true" android:summaryOn="@string/use_sharebear_subtitle_when_enabled" android:summaryOff="@string/use_sharebear_subtitle_when_disabled" />

I don't see the switch to turn off Google's screenshot handler on any of my devices, but it will be in the Accounts and Privacy screen when it goes live.

More Bisto

Remember Bisto, right? It's Google's codename for a pair of headphones with Assistant built in. While quite a few details have already been covered in the past, this version brings a few new lines with a touch of additional information. The key detail in the latest update is a simple thing: You'll be shown a toast message with the battery level of the headphones each time they connect with your phone. Additionally, there will be a notification containing the current battery level, so it should always be close at hand if you're not sure if some recharging time is necessary.

strings
<string name="bisto_magic_pairing_notification_body">Battery level: n/a</string>
<string name="bisto_magic_pairing_notification_connect_button">Connect</string>
<string name="bisto_magic_pairing_notification_headline">Google</string>
<string name="bisto_magic_pairing_notification_headline_secondary">Assistant</string>
<string name="bisto_magic_pairing_notification_headline_separator">·</string>

<string name="battery_toast">%1$s connected.
Battery: %2$d%%</string>

<string name="transcript_success3_1">Here's what I heard. %1$s. To send it, press and hold the top button. Or to rerecord, press and hold the middle button while talking.</string>
<string name="transcript_timeout3_1">To send your message, press and hold the top button. Or to rerecord, press and hold the middle button while talking.</string>
<string name="transcript_timeout3_2">If you want to delete the draft, just press and hold the bottom button.</string>

There are also a few new lines with instructions for using the buttons, if you're interested, but they don't really change what we already know about using the device.

Shortcuts (user-defined actions)

The shortcuts feature in Google Assistant can certainly be useful, especially if there are a few activities you want to do often that require complicated commands. Now it looks like there might be some adjustments to the UI for setting up commands in the future. New lines have been added that suggest there will be individual fields for things like setting the temperature of a thermostat, choosing volume levels for each category, or selecting a radio station.

All of these additions look like things that were already possible with shortcuts, at least if you worded the commands correctly. That leads me to think this will turn into a guide to help users create their first actions. It may also move from straight shortcuts into something a little more elaborate, and hopefully a bit more flexible. At this time, it's hard to be sure what the intent is, so I'm sharing these to give readers a chance to make some guesses of their own.

strings
<string name="user_defined_action_task_light_title">Lights</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_smart_plug_title">Smart plugs</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_devices_to_adjust">Which devices would you like to adjust?</string>

<string name="user_defined_action_task_home_control_settings">Home control settings</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_device_no_change">Don't change</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_device_turn_off">Turn off</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_device_turn_on">Turn on</string>

<string name="user_defined_action_task_set_temperature_title">Set thermostat</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_set_temperature_entry_error">Please enter a valid numeric temperature.</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_set_temperature_temperature_display">%1$d°</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_set_temperature_what_temperature">What temperature should your thermostat be set to?</string>

<string name="user_defined_action_task_music_title">Play music</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_radio_title">Listen to the radio</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_radio_station_title">What radio station would you like to play?</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_music_duration_display">%1$d minutes</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_music_duration_entry_error">Please enter a valid number of minutes.</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_music_duration_title">Turn off music after (only available on Google Home)</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_music_example_list">For example:
• the Beatles
• my workout playlist
• we are the champions by Queen</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_music_what_music_title">What music would you like to play?</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_radio_example_list">For example:
• KEXP
• KUER
• WNYZ</string>

<string name="user_defined_action_task_volume_title">Set volume</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_volume_default_title">Volume</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_volume_master_title">Master volume</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_volume_alarm_title">Alarm volume</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_volume_media_title">Media volume</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_task_volume_notification_title">Ringer and notification volume</string>

<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_add_new_preference">Add new</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_add_new_command_phrase">Add new command phrase</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_saving">Saving workflow</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_deleting">Deleting workflow</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_duplicate_command_phrase">The command phrase \"%1$s\" is already in use. Please select another one.</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_edit_command_phrases">Edit command phrases</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_no_actions">No actions</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_no_command_phrases">No command phrases</string>

<string name="assistant_settings_uda_workflow_back_confirmation_abandon_button">Discard</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_uda_workflow_back_confirmation_return_button">Continue editing</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_uda_workflow_back_confirmation_title">You have unsaved changes</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_uda_workflow_savable_back_confirmation_message">Do you want to save your changes to this routine?</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_uda_workflow_unsavable_back_confirmation_message">You must specify at least one \"Ok Google\" trigger for this routine before you can save it.</string>

Vehicle Bluetooth integration

This last topic is really just a small detail, but it may be something to look out for the next time you're connecting to a car. The Google app may suggest that you'll have a better experience if Bluetooth audio routing is enabled, and it will offer to make the changes for you. The message lacks any explanation for what actually happens if routing is enabled, but I think this means audio from the mic in your car will go directly to the Google app.

strings
<string name="vehicle_integration_confirmation_dialog_title">Update Google Settings?</string>
<string name="vehicle_integration_confirmation_dialog_message">Your car can work better with the Google app by enabling the bluetooth audio routing setting. Do that automatically?</string>

New Images

Oh, let's actually make this the last topic. It's always nice to close out on some of the new images coming in with the latest update.

First, the Google Lens icon has been changed, though this isn't the first time the new icon has turned up.

Left: Old version. Right: New version.

There is also a notable icon for podcasts, which strikes me as a hint we're going to finally see some of that enhance podcast support that's been slowly trickling into Google Assistant.

And finally, there are a bunch of other new icons that aren't all that important, but why not throw them in anyway. The top row looks similar to other icons used in the Google Feed, while the rest of them are probably just accents for certain types of cards and recommendations.

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: 7.11.16 beta

Google
Google
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free