Android third-party launchers might finally get universal device search

Google has always been about search. And ads, of course. There was even a point in time when it almost seemed like Google wants everything on Android to be search-based too. Not only would Android, or the Google Search app to be exact, be able to take a peek into apps, it would even display the information and, if necessary, controls right within the search results. That, however, has been an exclusive feature of the Pixel launcher and the Google Search home screen widget but Android 12 might finally share that capability with third-party launchers.

Universal device search, as it has been called, isn't exactly a new concept. It has been around on the desktop for quite a while, like in Windows Search and macOS Spotlight. Google's implementation, however, combines both online search results as well as on-device data in a seamless manner, sometimes making it unnecessary to even open the app to find the answer you were looking for.

That only works, however, if you're using the Pixel launcher or have the Google Search widget on your phone's home screen. Third-party launchers, including those from some OEMs, have tried to implement their own version of the device search but with little success. At most, they can give quick links to search for the same things in other apps and services, like search in Google Play Store, for example.

Android 12 might throw third-party developers a bone, though, as discovered by Niagara Launcher's developer. An AppSearchManager API, still in preview, seems to offer those very same capabilities, but one that is exposed to almost any app that offers search functions.

This is definitely good news for developers of the myriad Android launchers available as it at least takes them one step closer to the functionality previously exclusive to Google's own. At the moment, however, it doesn't seem to be available just yet and it might be too early to invest in it until the final version lands in Android 12 beta.