Google Enables Android App Voice Search Via Lollipop 5.0

Google has added a new Google Now SEARCH_ACTION intent that gives Android developers the ability to enable the use of Google voice search in their apps.

According to Google's recently released Mobile Voice Study, more than half of American teens between the ages of 13 and 18 now use voice search on a daily basis. And voice search functionality provided by Google, Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana is increasingly appealing to adults, who say using voice search makes them "feel tech savvy."

To maximize the utility of voice search and ensure that it provides for a quality user experience, Google is aiming to make it easy for developers to enable voice search for their apps. With just a few lines of code added to an Android app's manifest file, search queries directed at the app using Ok Google voice search will be passed into the app, which can then handle them in the same fashion as text-based searches.

In a blog post announcing this new functionality, Google pointed to the Eat24 and TripAdvisor Android apps as examples of how voice search can be used. "Users can now say to the Google app: 'Ok Google, search pizza on Eat24' or 'Ok Google, search for hotels in Maui on TripAdvisor'," the post explained.

Voice search is available on Android devices running Jelly Bean or higher and the Google app version 3.5 or above. While the Google app supports multiple languages, English is the only language the SEARCH_ACTION intent currently supports; support for other languages will likely come after 2014. 

Google Search's Next Frontier

According to Jarek Wilkiewicz, Developer Advocate for Google Search, "Google is evolving, and we see mobile search as a key way for users to discover and engage with content and services."

"We think that the lines are blurring between the web and apps," he went on. "Users shouldn’t have to worry about whether the most useful answer and best experience is on the web or in an app. It’s our goal to provide the most relevant and comprehensive user experience possible. Voice search functionality provides a natural way to simplify user access to the information or action they’re looking for without clicking or navigating."

Of course, mobile apps are not like web pages – they can't as easily be indexed – so making sure that the world's largest search engine stays relevant in our mobile world is arguably one of the Google's biggest challenges.

In an effort to address this, Google has created an App Indexing API, which allows developers to report deep links in their apps to Google so that the search engine can index app content and surface it for users when appropriate. As Wilkiewicz explained, "This will provide search auto-completion in the Google app once the user completes the voice-initiated search activity."

Combined with the new SEARCH_ACTION intent, developers now have two powerful tools for making sure that the world's largest search engine can extend search into their Android apps.

Patricio Robles Follow me on Google+