Now that the Google app is available in beta, it looks like the development pace is going into overdrive.
An APK teardown of version 5.5 uncovers several new features that show how Google is pushing its app to be the central nervous system of your Android phone.
Why this matters: The Google app, along with Google Play Services, are primary weapons against Android fragmentation. Google can push out updates and new features without manufacturers or carriers getting in the way. The app is also the hub for Google Now, which uses your account data in a number of ways you might find helpful.
One headline feature is a card for concert tickets. The code string indicates that Google might alert you to when the doors open for an event that you’re planning to attend. Google would get this, of course, by scanning a confirmation message in your Gmail. It’s something to keep an eye out next time you’re headed to a show.
A batch of status indicator cards
Google lets you turn on or off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or the Flashlight via voice. Now when you do so, you’ll see a status card for such commands. This way you can quickly toggle the feature or go into the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi settings sections after issuing a directive with your voice.
Custom Chrome tabs
Google announced Chrome custom tabs at I/O this year. They give developers the ability to open full-page web content in a separate screen right from inside the app.
Code in this update indicates such custom tabs are coming to the Google app. This way if you tap a news story in your Google Now feed, you won’t get kicked over to Chrome. The advantage is you’ll get the site in a Chrome-powered tab, but then can easily retreat into Google by tapping the back button.
If you want to check out such features before they hit the mainstream, sign up to be a tester with the Google app beta.