Searching on a phone is frankly quite annoying. You have to leave the app you’re in to jump into your search app, your browser, another app or, most grating, speak out loud to your phone like a crazy person. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably forgotten what you need to search for by the time you get to the place where you search for it. “Wait…was it Brenda’s Soul Food or Brittany’s? Or…crap! Whatever, back to my texts.” Then comes the annoying task of copying movie times or addresses from a web browser back into your messages. It’s all a downright mess.
Google knows this, and that’s why they’ve launched something called Google Now On Tap with the latest version of Android 6.0. On Tap is a search function built straight into your operating system. It uses the power of Google no matter where you are in your phone and regardless of which app you’re using. Say goodbye to cumbersome searches.
First available on Google Nexus devices, On Tap is activated with a long press of your home button. What happens after that is actually pretty simple: Google reads the text on your screen and then provides you with search results. For instance, if a friend texts you that they’re getting in a Lyft, you can use On Tap to jump straight to the app instead of finding the app in your app drawer. When Chipotle texts you about a deal, Google Now On Tap can give you directions.
On Tap does not recognize images (or the words in them), but it’s a safe bet that it’s coming sooner rather than later, even if Google hasn’t officially announced plans for it yet. The good news is that On Tap does know who’s running for president:
From On Tap, you can access Twitter, Facebook, IMDB, Fandango, Youtube, Google Search results and more. Google Now On Tap is usually smart enough to take you to a subject’s online profile, but will conduct searches in several apps if it’s unclear. If there’s a date and a time, Google will offer you a calendar event.
If all of this sounds familiar to Siri or Google Now, it should! And that’s okay. On Tap exists to remove another step between you and the information you want. Google knows that its value proposition is connecting people to the content or answers they want faster. By building a big ol’ Google Search button straight into their operating system that’s always there and doesn’t make you do much of anything, Google’s showing that they have what it takes to make Android stand out.
Does it work all the time? Well, no. In my experience, Google Now On Tap has seriously impressed me a few times, satisfied me sometimes and disappointed me other times. If I had to guess, I’d say it got my search right a little over 50% of the time, but that’s probably because I’m not entirely sure what it will and won’t recognize. Like Siri, Google Now On Tap feels a little bit like a party trick right now, but based on how quickly Google Now got better, I think it’s safe to say that On Tap will improve quickly. One thing’s for certain though: Google integrating search this deeply into Android is going to change the way we use our phones.