Third-party launchers might get a shot in the arm with the launch of Android 12. The developers of Niagara Launcher have located an entry for “AppSearchManager” API in the documentation for Android 12’s developer preview, and it seems to suggest that any launcher will be allowed to include universal device search as part of the package.
Universal device search is the kind of functionality you get from Spotlight on iPhone or the Google widget either in the Pixel Launcher or placed directly on your home screen. Rather than limiting search results to the internet, Google Play store or the contents of your phone, results for all three are combined, meaning you don’t need to search each area individually.
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But to date, third-party launchers haven’t had this option with their built-in search solutions, limiting the results that can be surfaced. The likes of Sesame Search try to plug the gap, but it’s not without its quirks and requires you to invest a bit of time to make things work smoothly.
The Niagara Launcher developer’s discovery — if implemented in Android 12 —should make things a lot more seamless. According to the documentation, any app will be able to activate the AppSearch index, which allows for “a fully offline on-device solution”, and lets apps “index documents and retrieve them via full-text search.” There will also be “APIs for applications to allow the System to display their content on system UI surfaces.”
I stumbled upon this in Android 12's preview documentation. Android 12 might allow all launchers to integrate a universal search like spotlight🔍 pic.twitter.com/gkucmPZtNbApril 3, 2021
While we need to see how it’s actually implemented, this suggests that Android launchers could potentially dig out content from within apps, finding a specific document within Google Docs, for example, or a song on Spotify. That would bring third-party launchers more in line with the built-in search abilities of Windows, macOS and iOS — something that feels like a no-brainer.
Some phone manufacturers have introduced similar functionality to their handsets with their own UIs, with the likes of Samsung Finder and OnePlus Scout. But with the possible opening up of the functionality to third-party launchers, buyers can be a whole lot less fussy about tinkering with different launchers.