Google may be planning to make some significant changes to Android in the near future. The company is reportedly experimenting with making voice commands a bigger part of the interface and replacing the traditional home key with a search button.
Google wants to make its “Ok Google” command a more prominent hot word throughout the OS, according to Android Police. This means you’d simply need to say “Ok Google” within any app to launch a command related to that app.
For example, if you’re using Google’s stock Gallery app for photos, you may be able to just say “Ok Google” to bring up a search box. From here, you could tell Google to share or edit a photo. From what Android Police has written, it seems as if you wouldn’t need to press any buttons to let Google know you’d like to make a voice command. Here’s a GIF from Android Police that shows what it might look like:
In the current version of Android, you can launch Google Now by pressing the microphone button in the widget on your phone’s home screen. Google offers a lot of functionality with Now, including the ability to perform searches, set alarms and reminders, and send messages to contacts.
Google Now learns more about you the more you use it, which allows it to offer more specific suggestions tailored to your typical usage patterns. Based on Android Police’s leak, it seems as if Google wants to integrate that type of functionality more deeply into stock Android apps by enabling users to issue more specific commands.
This ability to launch the search box by saying “Ok Google” looks like it will be optional. Android Police made mockup screenshots based on the information it recieved from its sources, one of which shows what the set-up screen would look like. The name of the feature appears to be “Ok Google Everywhere,” and users will be able to choose if they’d like to activate it. Once it’s turned on, the phone will always listen for the phrase “Ok Google.” It sounds as if Google wants to build on the natural voice controls introduced with the Moto X and expand it more broadly across Android.
Google is also apparently toying with the idea of stripping out the standard Android home button and replacing it with a Google search key. This button would look like a lowercase “g” inside a red circle, and tapping it would launch a search prompt from wherever you are in the interface. The back and recent apps buttons seem to be the same, according to Android Police. To navigate back to the home screen, you would have to press the recent apps button and swipe to the right.
It’s unclear if these tweaks will ever make it to a final consumer-ready version of Google’s mobile software, but Android Police seems fairly confident that these features will eventually hit the platform. The proposed changes make it seem as if Google is trying to bridge the mobile version of Android closer to Android Wear. The “g” search button that Android Police describes sounds very similar to icon that we’ve seen on Google’s Android Wear renderings.
Google’s Android design chief Matias Duarte recently hinted in an interview with The Verge Editor-In-Chief Joshua Topolsky that the company is leaning toward creating apps that work seamlessly across mobile, wearable and desktop platforms.
“If you’re product is about finding a ride, it’s not ok that you can get it on a 7-inch screen but not on a 2-inch screen,” he said.
Other recent leaks have also suggested that Google will revamp its core apps and services to follow this principle. In particular, the Gmail app is expected to get a redesign that would make it less distracting that would focus on full-screen views of individual emails.
So, when will we see those changes? A good bet would be this summer when Google hosts its developers conference, Goolge I/O. Google has traditionally used I/O to show off new products. The conference starts June 25.