Tearing Down Google Apps Updates: What’s (Possibly) Coming!
Hello readers of our portal! As you might know, many applications are updated or released during the week of Google I/O. Most of these updates are pretty major and most of their features are detailed by the developer teams in the changelog.
However, not every upcoming feature gets noted, so we’re here to teardown the APKs and give you some insight as to what to expect from some of Google’s apps sometime in the future.
Disclaimer: The evidence we dig up from the APK files of an app are not definitive. Google may choose to pull these features without any indication in a future release.
Say Allo to SMS?
Google’s Allo was met with mixed reviews when it was initially announced. One of the main drawbacks, at least in the eyes of the average user, was the lack of SMS capabilities. XDA recognized contributor Quinny899 created an Xposed module that allowed you to feed dummy data into the Allo app, bypassing the authentication process. After gaining access to the offline capabilities of the app and performing a quick hands on, he decided to dig into the decompiled classes within the APK to see what’s there. To our surprise, there are some curious classes that have some vague mentions of SMS interaction.
Do note that it’s entirely possible that these classes exist for the sole purpose of performing the initial SMS authentication process to set up Allo in the first place, and thus might not have anything to do with SMS. We did a bit of digging ourselves, and found a curious string within the APK that does lend some credence to the idea that Allo will be having SMS capabilities.
<string name="tombstone_chat_via_sms">You are chatting with %3$s by SMS free of charge</string>
One interesting thing to note is the “free of charge” bit in the string. In many carrier plans in the U.S., text messages are not sent for free. So why is Google saying saying you can send SMS free of charge? Perhaps they’ll be using a Google Voice online backend to send messages. Who knows? The only way we can tell is to wait until the app is finalized and released to the masses. By the way, Quinny899 found another class that raised our eyebrows.
In this class, a function is called that pulls the package information of “com.google.android.talk” and checks whether or not it is installed. That package, by the way, is the package name for Google Hangouts. We have no idea what Google is exactly up to here, though, so again we’ll need to wait and see.
Google App Trending Searches and new Now on Tap Features – Coming Soon?
Google loves to randomly test new features for their apps by pulling a server side switch. Back in January, a couple of Redditors noticed something new in the Google App – an option to see trending searches. Tapping on “What’s Hot” would show you the top searches on Google and clicking on “Nearby” would give you the option to search for local restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, coffee shops, etc.
Since these were server side changes, it was unclear when exactly these features would roll out to everybody. But there are hints in the latest update of the Google App, version 5.14.28 beta, that indicate this feature might be coming soon.
<string name="trends_suggestion_message">This search is trending in your area.</string>
<string name="popular_searches">Popular searches</string>
<string name="popular_near_you">Popular near you</string>
These strings match up with the feature discovered earlier by redditors in January. The only thing left is for Google to officially announce it. Or, they could remove it in a future update if they decide not to release the feature. Next up, there are some potentially new features for Google Now on Tap. First, is the ability to add a contact.
<string name="add_contact_display_name">Add contact</string>
We don’t know exactly how it would work, but I’m guessing it will read a phone number, name, address, e-mail, etc. and try to piece together information to add someone as a contact. Pretty nifty if you’re reading an e-mail and someone copy-pastes their contact information at the bottom of every e-mail. Thanks, Google!
In addition, there are some indications that Google Now on Tap will be able to capture screenshots and then translate any text contained within. It appears that there will be a new setting to enable taking screenshots via Google Now on Tap, which when enabled will allow you to translate screenshots by bringing up the assistant.
<string name="assist_translate_screenshot_failure">Something went wrong. Try again later.</string>
<string name="screen_assist_enable_screenshot_prompt">To enable this feature in Now on Tap, please turn on the \"screenshot\" setting</string>
<string name="screen_assist_screenshot_unavailable_prompt">Unable to capture screenshot</string>
Finally, Google will actually be marketing their features in the Google App more by telling users with a compatible device that they can enable Google Now to wake the device using their voice. You will see a lockscreen notification telling you that your phone is compatible. If your phone is incompatible due to low memory, Google will now tell you that as well.
<string name="lockscreen_mic_promo_notification_title">Unlock with your voice</string>
<string name="lockscreen_mic_promo_notification_content">Unlock your phone by saying \"%1$s\".</string>
<string name="hotword_setup_wizard_low_ram_device_title">\"%1$s\" not supported</string>
<string name="hotword_setup_wizard_low_ram_device_message">"This feature isn't supported on this device. You can still tap the mic to search and more."</string>
This will hopefully help Google spread the word about their Google Now features, as previously training your phone to wake by voice was buried in the settings.
Google Play Store Early Access Plays Nice with Multiple Accounts
After the release of the Play Store app with early access in it, a minor update was pushed to users. This version, Google Play Store 6.7.12, contained some strings that indicate that Google is still polishing their early access Play Store section.
<string name="testing_program_multi_account_dfe_account_opted_in_warning">Another account on this device, %1$s, joined this app’s beta programme. Updates to this app might include beta versions.</string>
<string name="testing_program_multi_account_dfe_account_opted_out_warning">This app was installed under a different account, %1$s. To get beta updates for this app, first switch to that account in Play Store and join the beta.</string>
If you’re someone who switches between multiple different accounts because of shared purchases (like me), then you will find this warning to be quite useful as you can tell which account is opted into a beta. Users sharing an account will know when an update they’re receiving is from a beta version even if they did not opt into the beta on their primary account. A very small but useful quality of life update before the Early Access Play Store section goes live for everyone.