Google just announced some major enhancements to Assistant, which predictably meant there would also be an update to the Google app coming shortly. While there aren't any outward signs of changes after updating, there are a few interesting additions to be seen in a teardown of this update. There are several improvements coming to the Pixel Buds, users may soon get to sign up to be beta testers for new features, and there are even a few new notification channels planned.


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.

Alpha & Beta tester sign-up, probably invite-only

Google began allowing users into the beta channel for its titular app a little over two years ago. However, as we've all seen many times, that only nets early access to the apk updates, not necessarily the features that are rolled out in waves to a random group of users. It looks like Google may be about to break down that wall. New text shows that there will be a sign-up option to become a tester, possibly with the choice of either alpha or beta channels, depending on how daring you want to be.

<string name="alpha_beta_channel_alpha_opt_in_title">Become an %1$s tester</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_beta_opt_in_title">Become a %1$s tester</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_close_channel_description">You\'ve been invited to try new features before they\'re publicly available.</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_open_channel_description">Try new features before they\'re officially released.</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_opt_in_negative_button">Learn more</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_opt_in_positive_button">I\'m in</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_opt_in_snackbar_text">Added to the %1$s list</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_opt_out_selection">No testing</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_panel_change">Change</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_panel_header">Testing</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_selection_title">Choose how you\'d like to test</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_selection_channel_display_name">%1$s testing</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_selection_negative_button">Learn more</string>
<string name="alpha_beta_channel_selection_positive_button">OK</string>

New layouts:

It's important to note that one line implies this is invite-only, but since there are two groups, it's hard to say that both of them are going to be closed off. It's a safe bet that the alpha group won't be open to the general public. As for becoming a beta tester, we'll have to wait and see if it materializes.

Pixel Buds: In-ear detection and triple-tap to sleep

In previous teardowns of the Google app, we saw signs that bisto (the codename for Assistant-enabled headphones) would be able to detect if they were removed from a user's ears, then react accordingly. According to everybody I was able to ask, that feature wasn't active with the launch of the Pixel Buds, nor did it materialize in later updates. Some of the clues about this feature were later changed or removed.

The latest version of the Google app suggests that this story will be coming back. Similar lines have been added back with this release, and they describes the behavior in no uncertain terms. Quite simply, pulling the right earbud from your ear will automatically pause your music and put the Pixel Buds to sleep. Placing that bud back into the ear will reawaken them.

<string name="bisto_device_ohd_pref_title">Smart detection</string>
<string name="bisto_device_ohd_pref_summary">Pause music when right earbud is out of ear</string>

<string name="smart_detection_apollo_message">To put the Pixel Buds in sleep mode and automatically pause music, take the right earbud out of your ear. To wake them, place the right earbud back in your ear.</string>

There will also be a setting where in-ear detection can be turned off if you don't like it or if it's misbehaving. What's interesting is that some of the text also mentions that triple-tapping the right earbud can also turn the buds on or off. According to a Pixel Buds owner, the triple-tap behavior wasn't there before, so it also sounds like an alternative to placing the Pixel Buds back into their case to turn them off.

<string name="bisto_device_ohd_pref_title">In-ear detection</string>
<string name="bisto_device_ohd_pref_warning_body">Your headphones will now remain active until they are placed back inside the case or manually disconnected using the Bluetooth menu.\n\nTriple tapping the right earbud will continue to manually turn your Pixel Buds on and off.</string>
<string name="bisto_device_ohd_pref_summary">Your Pixel Buds automatically turn on and off when you wear the right earbud. Use Triple Tap for manual control.</string>
<string name="bisto_device_ohd_pref_warning_tile">In-ear detection disabled</string>

Bisto: Customizing double-tap

Another new addition for the Pixel Buds, or really any Assistant-enabled headphones, is coming in the form of some customization. Specifically, users will be able to decide if a double-tap on the right bud should trigger Assistant to read your notifications or if it should advance your music to the next track. Many Pixel Buds users have complained that music playback required voice commands, which often didn't fit into their surroundings, so this should be a very welcome feature.

<string name="bisto_device_double_tap_dialog_title">Customize Double Tap</string>
<string name="bisto_device_double_tap_pref_title">Customize Double Tap</string>
<string name="bisto_device_double_tap_assistant_mode">Check notifications</string>
<string name="bisto_device_double_tap_assistant_mode_value">assistant</string>
<string name="bisto_device_double_tap_next_mode">Next track</string>
<string name="bisto_device_double_tap_next_mode_value">next</string>

<array name="bisto_device_double_tap_entries">
<array name="bisto_device_double_tap_values">

from /xml/assistant_device_id_bisto_settings.xml
<Preference android:persistent="false" android:title="@string/bisto_device_notifications_pref_title" android:key="bistoNotificationsExtended" android:widgetLayout="@layout/preference_widget_newpage" />

<ListPreference android:persistent="false" android:entries="@array/bisto_device_double_tap_entries" android:title="@string/bisto_device_double_tap_pref_title" android:key="bistoDoubleTap" android:widgetLayout="@layout/preference_widget_next" android:dialogTitle="@string/bisto_device_double_tap_dialog_title" android:entryValues="@array/bisto_device_double_tap_values" />

<PreferenceScreen xmlns:android="">
<SwitchPreferenceCompat android:persistent="false" android:title="@string/bisto_app_notifications_global_toggle_title" android:key="bistoGlobalNotifications" android:summary="@string/bisto_app_notifications_global_toggle_summary" />
<PreferenceCategory android:title="@string/bisto_app_notifications_individual_category_title" android:key="bistoAppNotifications" />

Bisto: Spoken notifications for individual apps

Spoken notifications are probably one of the better features of the Pixel Buds, since they take away the need to focus your eyes on a screen to find out what's happening on your phone. However, you didn't have much control over the notifications that you could listen to. There are now signs that you'll be able to control those spoken notifications on an app-by-app basis.

<string name="bisto_app_notifications_header">Spoken notifications</string>
<string name="bisto_app_notifications_global_toggle_title">Spoken notifications</string>
<string name="bisto_app_notifications_global_toggle_summary">Hear incoming notifications read aloud</string>
<string name="bisto_app_notifications_individual_category_title">Individual apps</string>

The new text is basically just labels, so it's not too descriptive, but the significant line shows that there will be a category for individual apps. Basically, you should be able to turn notifications on or off for each app that might try to get your attention.

Sony headphones with Google Assistant

Also on the subject of Assistant-enabled headphones, Sony previously announced Assistant would be added to some of its newly announced and older headphones. If you happen to own any of the select models, and assuming they don't already have Assistant enabled, it might be be worth checking to see if support is now available. A few new lines were added in this update that reference installing the Sony app on your phone and opening it to enable Assistant on your headphones.

<string name="first_ota_notification_text_install_sony">To get the Assistant on your headphones, install the Sony app on your phone</string>
<string name="first_ota_notification_text_open_sony">To get the Assistant on your headphones, open the Sony app on your phone</string>
<string name="first_ota_notification_title">Get the Google Assistant</string>
<string name="first_ota_notification_button_install_sony">INSTALL APP</string>
<string name="first_ota_notification_button_open_sony">OPEN APP</string>

Notification channels

There are three new notification channels described in text with this version. So far, they don't appear to be registered with the system yet, but they may be activated remotely at a later time. Nothing too special can be learned from the names or descriptions, but here they are:

  • Recommendations – Features and actions you might like, based on your interests
  • Updates from other apps & services – Notifications from the non-Google services you use with your Assistant
  • Assistant updates – Updates on new features and ways your Assistant can help you
<string name="opa_notification_channel_recommendations_title">Recommendations</string>
<string name="opa_notification_channel_recommendations_description">Features and actions you might like, based on your interests</string>

<string name="opa_notification_channel_third_party_title">Updates from other apps &amp; services</string>
<string name="opa_notification_channel_third_party_description">Notifications from the non-Google services you use with your Assistant</string>

<string name="opa_notification_channel_updates_title">Assistant updates</string>
<string name="opa_notification_channel_updates_description">Updates on new features and ways your Assistant can help you</string>

Follow-up: Routines

We've been expecting Routines, user-defined actions that can execute multiple commands, to go live eventually. We've followed the growth of this topic for quite a while, and this Google app update continues the tradition of dropping yet another crumb to show that progress hasn't stalled.

This time, there's an explanation that Google is providing pre-made routines, likely to be fairly standard examples and popular shortcuts. It also suggests creating custom routines to do even more. There

<string name="assistant_settings_routines_description">Have your Assistant do multiple things with just one command. Use ready-made routines you adjust to fit your day, and create custom ones from scratch.</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_routines_preset_routines">Ready-made</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_routines_custom_routines">Custom</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_uda_workflow_delete_confirmation_delete_button">Delete routine</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_uda_workflow_delete_confirmation_message">Are you sure you want to delete this routine?</string>

<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_new">New routine</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_one_command_phrase">\"%1$s\"</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_two_command_phrases">\"%1$s\" or \"%2$s\"</string>
<string name="user_defined_action_workflow_many_command_phrases">\"%1$s\" or \"%2$s\" or …</string>


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.


Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free