Pixel Launcher universal search may let you search inside more apps, could come to third-party launchers

Get ready for some “search” semantic satiation

When you think of a Pixel, you might think of a great camera, features like automatic call screening, or even the many Pixel bugs, but there are other perks to ownership. The Pixel Launcher is so popular that some folk install third-party home screen replacements to mimic how it looks. In Android 12, it picked up universal search, with support for finding screenshots, widgets, and even queries in Google Search – as in “Googling” it. According to a recent teardown, it may pick up the same level of search integration to find things in Maps, YouTube, Settings, and the Play Store. And, based on a recent bug filed to the issue tracker, third-party launcher integration for universal search is on Google’s roadmap.

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Details are sparse right now, but a handful of strings dug up by 9to5Google in a recent version of the Android System Intelligence app (which governs the Pixel Launcher’s integrations) indicate that search integration for those services is coming. It’s impossible to say exactly how it might behave until it rolls out, but in the Pixel Launcher, you can search for content through Google Search by passing an entered query to the Google app with a tap. This may do the same, opening the associated apps and plopping your text into a search field inside them.

Passing a universal search query in the Pixel Launcher to search for it in Google Search in the Google app. (Search search search search.)

We should point out that the Settings app already has Pixel Launcher integration for certain types of shortcuts – like quick-access to toggles like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, among other things – which surface when searching for them. This change may add the ability to pass search through to the Settings app to find some of the things that otherwise don’t appear (a lot of items in Settings don’t).

It’s not clear when the feature is planned to launch, and like all in-development features spotted in teardowns, it might not pan out. Google may wait to release it as part of a quarterly Feature Drop, it might be announced at the upcoming Google I / O event, it could release it together with a hardware product, or it could land as part of Android 13. We should also note that universal search in the Pixel Launcher is broken in Android 13 Beta 1, a possible indicator that changes (potentially on top of this) are coming.

We’ve been hoping that the Pixel Launcher’s universal search feature would come to third-party launchers since Android 12’s developer documentation indicated there was an API for it, but it’s apparently locked down to pre-installed apps. A recent response on Google’s IssueTracker, spotted by the Niagara Launcher developers, indicates that third-party launcher support for the universal search feature is being worked on, courtesy of some changes to how app roles work. That means popular home screen replacements like Niagara, Nova Launcher, and Action Launcher might be able to use it someday. (Action Launcher already has its own Action Search feature, which is similar, but this would add even more search integrations.)


There’s no telling whether expanded launcher support for universal search will land as part of Android 13 or a future release, but it sounds like Google is actively figuring out how to bring it to third-party launchers.


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