The latest Google app update is rolling out to the beta channel, but as usual, you're probably not going to see much in the way of changes after installing it. The version number lept from 8.27 to 8.33, which looks odd, but I assure you, it makes total sense if you think about it. Today we'll be talking about a new page for home screen settings, more about linking services to notes and lists, personalized news settings, and more.

Note: Don't actually spend time thinking about version numbers, they're just for show. This jump doesn't have any significance whatsoever.

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 wrong or inaccurate. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that products could change or may be canceled. 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. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.

Home screen settings

Google's support for configuring the home screen on its own launchers has never been particularly flexible. In fact, even the older Google Now Launcher only ever really offered a handful of settings, and the Pixel Launcher has only a couple more than that.

Existing Home settings options.

While there is already a "home settings" screen that allows for adjusting a few things (pictured above), there appears to be a new settings screen in the works that may add yet more options. At present, there are only two settings listed: Personalized updates and suggested apps.

Personalized updates is described as showing weather, traffic, and calendar updates, which sounds a lot like the At A Glance widget, but the name of the setting makes it clear that this is for the Google Feed (which was just renamed to Discover). So I take it that this option will be used for turning the Feed Discover page on or off. Then there is the suggested apps setting, which just determines if any space in the app list is dedicated to showing recommendations based on some pattern of usage.

strings
<string name="homescreen_settings_title">Home screen</string>
<string name="homescreen_settings_summary">Manage what appears on your phone\'s home screen.</string>
<string name="homescreen_preferences">homescreen_preferences</string><string name="homescreen_display_feed_title">Personalized updates</string>
<string name="homescreen_display_feed_summary">Show weather, traffic, and calendar updates on your phone\'s home screen.</string>
<string name="homescreen_feed_preference">pref_display_feed</string><string name="homescreen_suggested_apps_title">Suggested apps</string>
<string name="homescreen_suggested_apps_summary">Show suggested apps at the top of your phone\'s app list.</string>
<string name="homescreen_prediction_preference">pref_show_predictions</string>from /xml/homescreen_settings.xml
<PreferenceScreen xmlns:launcher="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res-auto/com.android.launcher3" xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android" xmlns:app="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res-auto" xmlns:aapt="http://schemas.android.com/aapt" android:title="@string/homescreen_settings_title" android:key="@string/homescreen_preferences">
<SwitchPreference android:persistent="false" android:enabled="false" android:title="@string/homescreen_display_feed_title" android:key="@string/homescreen_feed_preference" android:summary="@string/homescreen_display_feed_summary"/>
<SwitchPreference android:persistent="false" android:enabled="false" android:title="@string/homescreen_suggested_apps_title" android:key="@string/homescreen_prediction_preference" android:summary="@string/homescreen_suggested_apps_summary"/>
</PreferenceScreen>

Notes and Lists

We've seen evidence that users would be able to choose a service to sync their notes and lists for some time, and it was even recently confirmed by a Googler that Notes Keep would be coming back as an option. The latest update brings a link to an already active service, plus a little more insight into how notes and lists may be working.

To begin with, some old lines were updated in a crucial way. The original versions used some odd phrasing about linked services would have "access your lists and notes." The new version is a little more leading in that it explains the changes you make to notes and lists will be visible to that service. The takeaway here seems to be that notes and lists created with Assistant are still intended to live within Assistant, but a service chosen to sync with Assistant will be allowed to effectively copy that data and show it to users, and likely also make changes.

strings
// new
<string name="notes_lists_provider_link_description">%1$s will be able to access the notes and lists from your Google Assistant. Any changes you make to your notes and lists will be visible to %1$s. After you link %1$s, select it in your Assistant settings to start syncing.</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_link_negative_button">Cancel</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_link_positive_button">Link</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_unlink_description">%1$s will no longer be able to access the notes or lists you make with your Google Assistant. Existing notes and lists may not be deleted from %1$s.</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_unlink_negative_button">Cancel</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_unlink_positive_button">Unlink</string>
// old
<string name="notes_lists_provider_link_description">Account linking and selection will provide %1$s with permission to access your Lists and Notes data from Google Assistant. Any changes you make to your lists and notes data will be visible to %1$s.\10\10Sounds good?</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_link_negative_button">No</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_link_positive_button">Yes</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_unlink_description">Assistant Notes and Lists data will no longer be updated with %1$s. Existing data in %1$s will not be deleted.\10\10Sounds good?</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_unlink_negative_button">No</string>
<string name="notes_lists_provider_unlink_positive_button">Yes</string>

That might sound like an unnecessarily complicated explanation, but it's an important detail because it basically confirms that a linked service is not the owner of your data. If you switch away from one service, you won't be leaving behind notes and lists that were created while you were using that service, they will follow you to the next service you choose.

Shopping lists are also being given a bit of specific attention. This is surely related to the treatment shopping lists were given when Assistant was switched to Google Express as the syncing service, which wasn't even available to many people outside of the US. In the new lines, it's explained that shopping lists can also have a linked provider, but they will be maintained by Google Shopping.

<string name="notes_lists_category_title_v2">Lists and notes services\10\10Choose a service to sync with all your notes and lists, including shopping lists. They\'ll also be saved by your Assistant.</string>
<string name="shopping_list_category_title_v2">Shopping services\10\10Choose a service to sync with your shopping lists. They\'ll also be saved by your Assistant (managed by Google Shopping).</string>

The great thing about this new implementation is that there appears to also be a front end for working with lists, and it is already operational and available to everybody. Just visit assistant.google.com/lists/mainview and you'll see a new interface with a FAB at the bottom where notes and lists are synced. It does work across any browser signed into your Google account, so this seems to be the destination for all of your saved data.

<string name="notes_lists_title_link">https://assistant.google.com/lists/mainview</string>
<string name="notes_lists_title_text">To see all your notes and lists in one place, say “Show all my lists” to your Assistant or %1$s</string><string name="notes_lists_unlink_selected_provider">Deselect %1$s before unlinking</string><string name="notes_lists_none_preference_title_v2">Don\'t Sync</string>
<string name="notes_lists_tap_here">tap here</string>

I have a feeling this may be the final step before everything goes live, so we probably don't have too long to wait. Although, testing and implementation with Keep Notes may not be finished yet, so it's hard to make any more than a guess at this point.

Personalized news settings

The Google Assistant has been able to read news to us since it was first launched, but the basic functionality has always been built around an audio experience. Now that smart displays are on the market, it only makes sense to take advantage of those screens.

Current news sources page.

 

New text outlines a split of sections for the news sources, which should be going into tabs for Audio and Video. The text for the audio section matches that which you can already see in the news sources page, and the video tab will naturally focus on sources that are to be shown or heard when your Smart Display is asked for the news.

strings

<string name="assistant_settings_news_personalized_news">Personalized News</string>

<string name="assistant_settings_news_audio_tab">Audio</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_enabled_news_explanation_personalized">Your Assistant will play personalized news when you say \"listen to the news\" or add news to a routine. Learn more at go/noa-dogfood.</string>

<string name="assistant_settings_news_video_tab">Video</string>
<string name="assistant_settings_enabled_news_explanation_video">Your Smart Displays will play the news from these sources when you say \"listen to the news\" or add news to a routine.</string>

Global auto-download setting for podcasts

We've known that automatic downloading of podcast episodes will be coming, but in addition to per-show settings, there will also be a global setting for turning on or off auto-download across all shows.

<string name="auto_download_global_settings">Global settings</string>
<string name="auto_download_settings_disable_for_all">Disable for all</string>
<string name="auto_download_settings_enable_for_all">Enable for all</string>

KITT sighting

The final topic for the teardown is really not of much importance, but it can be mentioned simply because it's a random sighting. We've seen the KITT codename come up a few times in the past, which is obviously related to voice commands with cars. The latest appearance doesn't really give any new information other than the fact that it's naming a field for storing a device name. Nevertheless, there is still activity on this codename, which is really all we would be expecting right now.

<string name="kitt_device_name_pref_key">kitt_device_name_pref_key</string>

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.

Google
Google
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free