How To: Unleash Some Experimental Google Now Cards

September 23, 2014 - Written By Phil Bourget

This past weekend, we covered how the ‘new’-ish Google Now card for paying your bills, and specifically the reminder to do that based on the bill coming into your Gmail inbox was finally getting more widespread sightings.  And you’ve probably heard us talk about the Google Now card for tracking flight price changes based on searches you’ve done.  But what if you read all about the flight price tracker, and are really eager to get it and benefit, or just show off that you’ve got it (some people have that sort of thing listed as ‘enjoyable’, we’re not judging at all) and haven’t seen it after hours of purposeful, legitimate or not, flight perusing?

First thing you should consider doing is spending time doing things other than browsing flights, specifically if you don’t plan to fly any time soon.  If you do need to fly, however, and would benefit from the new card, then where does that leave you?  It leaves with an option, actually.  Do you have root access on your Android device? Yes, the option relies on having root privileges and being able to grant root access to apps.  If you don’t understand what I’m saying, then sorry for the nifty introduction, this article isn’t where you should be right now.  If you do understand me though, and you do in fact have root access, and you could benefit from accessing the new Google Now card on flight prices, then here’s what you need to do.  UnleashTheGoogle.

No, that’s no typo, error, silly move, or clever play on unleashing the full potential of Google.  I mean the solution’s name or title is ‘UnleashTheGoogle’.  It’s an app that got some coverage right after Google I/O finished up with the Google Search and Play Services update that enabled the ‘OK Google Anywhere’ feature for Android 4.4, Kit Kat-clad devices.  It’s exactly the same program, if you have heard of or dealt with it before.  If you don’t remember that, and this is the first time you’re hearing the name ‘UnleashTheGoogle’, then here’s a little history. Zhuowei Zhang is a developer that apparently wanted to toy with Google’s latest and greatest features, including all the bells, whistles, and ‘internal-only’ type options involved in the Google Search app.  So he created a program that, once given root access, enabled the development/debug options and settings in the Google Search app.  That’s all there really is to it.  He published the code on GitHub, so head over there if you’re interested, but be sure to come back to learn how to enable those nifty new cards.  Yes plural.

Code-friendly people, welcome back.  People that stuck around, thanks for doing so.  Anyway, to enable this wondrous part of the Google Search app’s menu and settings, you’ll need to download the .apk file for the ‘app’, since it obviously wouldn’t be allowed on the Play Store, given what it does and allows.  Next, you need to install it like any normal .apk file, then launch it like any normal app.  It will request root access, so go ahead and grant it (that’s why you need to have root to do this one, folks).  Once you grant, the app and prompt will close, and you will get a little toast message across the bottom half of your device’s screen saying “Enabled debug/dogfood options.  Force-close Google Search to see results.” and you need to do just that.  Get into your recent apps list, and long-tap on Google search to get to the app’s info, which gives you the option to force stop it.  Force stop it.  Swipe it out of recent apps for a refreshing feeling, although it probably isn’t necessary since you just killed the app manually. Next, you go back into Google Search, and either tap your menu button or scroll down to see the three-dot menu button if you have on-screen keys without a menu option.  Tap ‘menu’ and see that you have many more options than before.  Now, go into Settings, then, under the Dogfood section, hit ‘Internal API cards’.  Tap the check box, and they’re enabled.  Done.

‘But wait,’ you think to yourself, ‘I see the flight price monitor, but what the heck are those other two!?’  Well, person that’s asking or simply still reading, these three experimental cards are apparently in testing right now.  So, the flight price makes sense.  The Artworks Nearby seems like something that tracks travelling exhibits, and lets you know when, as well as other pertinent information, so that’s great for you art-a-holics.  But what’s that last one, Election Information?  It seems to be something might only benefit us United States folk, seeing as it could refer to the mid-term elections that are approaching.  So, sadly not all that are available apply to everyone.  But rejoice if you came this far just for flight price tracking!

Regardless of what the election card will eventually do, or if it’ll ever see the light of day, we have a nifty problem and tool on our hands.  And so does Google, sort of.  With each update of Search, the options get hidden again, and you’ll have to re-enable all over again.  But it’s not clear if the same version of UnleashTheGoogle will work on a newer version of the Search app.  If it gets updated soon, give it a try and let us know if it works.  If you followed us on this journey of manually enabling some of the new cards, and have them pop up, what do you think of them?  If you look through the screenshot gallery we’ve got below, it’s also interesting to see the sheer amount of things under the Testing tab in the Unleashed menu (that’s what the two with lists of boxes with things inside are, if you were wondering).  What other interesting cards do you think that Google could roll out in the future?  What cards should they roll out?  Let us know.