The Google application is responsible for providing many of Android’s smarter features. It handles the Google voice command and transcription service as well as the local Google Now functionality. Because so many parts of the operating system are handled by this one application, which in turn is plugged into Google’s cloud computing platform, this makes it relatively easy to upgrade functionality for a huge number of users. And so it is with the latest version of the Google application, where a new feature has emerged: customers are able to use a third-party messaging application rather than the standard Messaging or Hangouts applications on the device.
Google have enabled WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, Telegram and NextPlus over and above Messaging and Hangouts. We are now able to say to our device, “Okay Google, send a Viber message to Sandra; are you free for cheesecake tonight?” Google’s blog on the subject reminds us that we will need the latest version of the Google application and the respective messenger application. We will also need a working Internet connection. Although, this should be obvious because without a valid Internet connection these Internet applications will not work! The service is only working with English for the time being, but this is both the British and American flavors of the language spoken all over the world. Google have confirmed that they will be working on releasing the service in other languages and will be including additional applications too. Unfortunately, there are no details on what sort of timescale to expect for other languages and applications at the moment.
These latest improvements to the Google service reflect how Android is changing to better integrate with third-party applications and to pull them closer to the operating system, a process that was kickstarted with the release of Android 5.0 Lollipop. To send a WhatsApp message, we no longer must launch the WhatsApp application on the device. Another change is how Google Now will communicate with third-party applications on our device and pull up relevant and timely Google Now cards. This third party integration also includes services such as music recognition on Shazam, or location-aware searches using a real estate application such as Zillow.