We've known for a few months now that Google planned to add a Lens shortcut to the search bar in the Pixel Launcher, but it was unclear when or even if the icon would make its way to all users. It seems like it might be timed with the upcoming release of Android 12, as new sightings of the logo within the widget are starting to pour in.
The Pixel Launcher's search bar is one of the main components of its home screen, accessible from any page and along the top of the app drawer. That makes it valuable real estate, and Google intends to use that space to get more Pixel owners to start using Lens. We've seen multiple reports — from tipsters and AP staff alike — that the launcher's search bar now holds a brand-new shortcut next to the microphone, just as initially spotted back in April.
So far, we've only seen it appear on phones running Android 12 — thus the Material You dynamic themes for the icons in the photos above — so it might be limited to those devices for now. This change is likely a server-side update, which means it might appear on more phones at any time.
In addition to reports from Pixel phone users, it seems the Lens shortcut is also coming to the standard Google search widget. This version features an entirely different icon, but it's still found in the same position next to the microphone.
The Lens shortcut on a OnePlus device.
Google has really been pushing Lens, especially as the competition in image recognition technology heats up. It has some truly useful features, but placing a permanent search bar on the home screen for all Pixel users might not be the best way to earn the app some goodwill.
- and Tom