Since Google and Apple take a 30 percent cut of app revenue on their respective app stores, they have a strong incentive to get people to regularly use those apps after they've been downloaded. To that end, the company debuted a system called "Slices" last year, where low-key but relevant promotions of apps and device functions would show up when you performed a search in the Google app (download for iOS or Android).
But while Kayak and Todoist signed on as early partners, it's taken a bit more time for Google to get Slices working for system settings, like toggling mobile data or Bluetooth. However, 9to5Google reported over the weekend that several Google Pixel phones in its test group have started to show Slices for system settings, again within the Google app.
Google teased this functionality when it unveiled Slices at its annual I/O conference in the summer of 2018, but it's encouraging to finally see it in the wild, beyond the Slices for specific apps that began to pop up last November.
Now when you search for "Bluetooth" or "Wi-Fi" in the Google app on a Pixel phone that's gotten this update, your searches may contain results through which you can directly interact with a setting on your phone, without having to leave Google's own app.
In theory, this can make your phone's settings easier to locate and use, which would be a boon to the Android ecosystem that's currently populated with so many versions of Google's operating system, and so many custom alterations. Android can come in so many flavors that generalized tech support and troubleshooting can be difficult.
Using the Google app might allow a user to sidestep all of a phone manufacturer's customizations and go directly to what they need to do just by searching for the name of the function. This might also allow Google's partners to continue with their own designs in a way that doesn't interfere as much with general usability.
Of course, you don't necessarily need Slices to get quick access to your phone's settings. In many cases, you can use a "Hey Google" voice command. Like, "Hey Google, turn on the flashlight." CNET keeps a running list of everything that you can say to the Google Assistant, from playing music to setting timers to checking the weather.
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But you're not always in a situation where it's convenient or non-disruptive to have a conversation with your phone. In which case, Slices may get you most of the way without your having to speak.
If you're looking for a new phone, the Pixel 3 series is quite good in its own right. Its camera may be the best that you'll find on any mobile phone right now, and it gets regular security updates and free system upgrades directly from Google. Be aware that all Pixel 3 phones lack a headphone jack, though.
- 9to5Google reports that Android "Slices" have begun popping up on their Google Pixel phones. Slices are app functions that show up when you perform a relevant search in the Google app.
- In theory, Slices would allow you to sidestep the dizzying variety of customized Android versions that you'll find in stores by using the Google app to do things like turning on Wi-Fi or toggling mobile data.
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