Android 13 could steal one of the iPhone’s best features

android 13 logo on a pixel 4a
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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 (via Android Police) 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.

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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.)

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.