I don't find the Pixel Launcher — the default launcher on Pixel phones — to be particularly well-suited to my needs. But it's where Google invests most of its development time and the best Android launchers from third-party app makers are left to piece together what they can. But a new bit of news surrounding the next version of Android sure has me interested in trying out the Pixel Launcher again.
Esper's Mishaal Rahman (opens in new tab) (via Android Police (opens in new tab)) discovered that, by enabling certain flags in Android 13 Developer Preview 2, you can bring up screenshots, widgets, and even Google searches right in the Pixel Launcher's search bar. This is very exciting, since it builds on Android 12's universal search.
If this works like we think it will, Android might finally have a response to the long-standing Spotlight feature in iOS. On iPhones, you can pull down on your home screen and search for apps, send messages, and even perform Google searches (which open in either the Spotlight info feed or the Safari app on your iPhone). When I reviewed Android 12, I said I wanted to see Spotlight come to Android full stop.
The Pixel Launcher's search bar (powered by the Android System Intelligence app) will soon show results matching widgets, saved screenshots, and Google search suggestions.Flags have existed for these for some time, but they recently started working (H/T @panduu221). pic.twitter.com/ZRQv66xSB4March 21, 2022
These flags that Mishaal enabled have been around for some time, but they've just now started working. As you can see in the screenshots he provided, the Pixel Launcher's search bar now surfaces screenshots, a widget, and even Google searches. This is powered by the Android System Intelligence app.
I, for one, hope to see this fully implemented sooner rather than later. We don't know if Google plans to release this as a Pixel Feature Drop or with the full Android 13 release later this year.
All I know is that the Pixel Launcher is about to get much more useful. It might even be enough to convince me to switch away from Nova Launcher — unless Google opens this up to third-party apps, which I doubt. (Discovery in other launchers is technically still a hack.)