(Credit: Google/Alphabet)

Since the explosion of apps for Android and iOS began about a decade ago, both platforms have experienced growing pains, particularly when attempting to show users a diverse selection of text messengers, browsers, video services, games, and other things to download and check out. And once an app is installed on your device, it can get lost in the shuffle before its capabilities are fully explored.

This spring, Google announced a possible solution to the second problem with a system called Android Slices, and this week, the company just announced that it's begun testing Slices within its Google Search app (Android, iOS).

SEE: Google Maps begins testing Waze-like reporting of crashes and speed traps

With Slices, performing a Google search can intelligently display possible actions that you can take within a relevant app that's installed on your Android phone or tablet. For example, if you have the Lyft rideshare app installed, and you do a Google search about getting a ride, one of your search results may point you directly to that action within the Lyft app.

Android program manager Artur Tsurkan said at the Google I/O demo this spring that "Users might be searching for things that they didn't even realize [are] available in your app. But because it's installed on their device, and you can surface Slices for it, you might serendipitously surface that content for them to explore."

Google says that this test of Slices will be available for "Doist, Kayak and others." Doist makes the Todoist task management app (Android, iOS), and Kayak (Android, iOS) is a service for finding economical flights, lodging, and car rentals.

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For app developers, Slices will provide a modular template system, giving them the latitude to determine the finer points of how their product's abilities and content surface in a Slice search result. The spring Google I/O presentation also demoed Slices working for operating system controls, such as toggling a Wi-Fi connection, so it may not be limited to third-party apps.

The presentation in May also mentioned that Slices were being planned for other areas of Android, such as the notifications feed, or when you long-press an app icon, or as a kind of widget on your home screen. But Android engineer Jason Monk also noted at the time, "[T]his is only for apps installed on your device. We aren't currently doing anything with Instant Apps or stuff from the cloud."

With Instant Apps, Android users can download a demo of an app instead of the full version.

If you're like us and you have a variety of different apps on your phone, Slices may help you use them more effectively (and provide reminders that you have the relevant app installed). So we look forward to seeing how this plays out.

Takeaways

  • Google has announced that its Android Slices app surfacing system has entered testing, with Todoist and Kayak spearheading the effort.
  • With Slices, a Google search on an Android device can show you the relevant abilities of an installed app. For example, searching for rideshares might show you the option to do so with Lyft, and searching for YouTube might embed a video preview within the search results that the user could play, share, or cast to another device.
  • For now at least, Slices is only intended to work with apps that are already installed.

See also

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.