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Android 12 has at least one more hidden trick up its sleeve, and that's the long-rumored search universal changes for the launcher — which may even at least partially extend to third-party launchers via a new API. The new feature still isn't user-facing, but it's getting closer, and the folks at XDA Developers have been able to enable more functionality for the new search system in Android 12 Beta 4.
All images via XDA Developers.
As promised, the new search functionality lets you not only launch apps, but also app shortcuts and slices, as well as find things like contacts, settings, and widgets, and even apps on the Play Store. That means you can search for an app and directly launch an action inside it. For example, searching "camera" apparently shows various forms of content capture, including video, selfie, etc., as well as settings options that pertain to the camera, like the power button shortcut.
In short, Google's making that search widget all-powerful and infinitely more useful by letting it search basically everything on your phone, and we are psyched.
Images of the new search feature's controls/customization options, via XDA Developers.
There are plenty of settings to customize how this new search feature works — more than the last time we saw it. That includes toggles for app allowlist functionality, "hidden targets" (whatever that means), tips, and renamed settings for things like Widgets, People Tile, Chrome Tab, and more.
XDA even has a video of the feature in action.
If you're rooted and able to muck around with phenotypes, the service responsible for the change has been pinpointed as a part of the Android System Intelligence app (AiAiSearchUiService), only now available but still technically not user-facing in Android 12 Beta 4. But if it isn't live in the next release candidate build, it will probably be when stable lands in the coming weeks to months.