Google's developers took a couple of weeks off for the holidays – or from my perspective, they gave me a couple of weeks to rest – but now they're back and it's time for the app updates to resume. Naturally, it's time to breathe life back into the teardowns, and we're back with a big one. Google Search v4.1 began rolling out to users yesterday, and we've already seen quite a few little adjustments and improvements.
Quite a while ago, we wrote about an upcoming hands-free (and eyes-free) interface code-named KITT. The interface - intended for use in the car or in other places where looking at your phone isn't wise - would be stripped down, displaying a black screen and large iconography, and would have the ability to read notifications aloud, among other things. More recently, an icon for an app called Google Hands-Free showed up in a promotional gif posted to Google's Google+ page, hinting that the service was still under development.
Earlier this month, when we recapped all the rumor and leak posts we had published leading up to Google I/O, hands-free functionality called Android Eyes-Free (codenamed KITT) was marked as "partially live." For those in need of a refresher, our post outlined in-car functionality that would carry a stripped-down interface, notifications read aloud by Google, and a new hand-waving gesture used to wake the device.
While the hands-free hotword functionality has already debuted, the dedicated in-car interface, void of any visual chrome, has yet to be revealed (or even really hinted at) by Google.
A while ago, we posted about information we'd received indicating that sometime soon, Google's search functionality (and other actions) would be expanding beyond the Search app, moving into other apps for device-wide search interaction and - eventually - app-specific functionality.
It appears that isn't the only Search trick Google is working on, though. According to the information available to us, Google is working on functionality for now known as KITT (get it?) or "Android Eyes Free" internally.
Nuance released its take on voice actions – Dragon Mobile Assistant – back in October of 2012, aiming to put "a Jarvis-like mini-mobile voice-enabled assistant" by your side. That's a huge order to fill, but the company is definitely edging towards a fully voice-controlled mobile, and today's update makes the app even more useful by adding a handful of new features.
Every once in a while, an app comes along that revolutionizes the Android experience in an unimaginable way. More often, though, we get apps that simply regurgitate the same thing we've seen a thousand times before but with a different colored title bar or some such minor adjustment. A happy medium between the two, however, is necessary to the advancement of the platform. Perhaps the most important type of app is one that provides the functionality that we've been using the whole time but solidly improves how it is done.