Some owners of Pixel-series smartphones are now able to start saving time with Android Slices, a new component of Google's omnipresent operating system. The feature began surfacing on all Pixel devices running Android 9 Pie and has been mostly ready for at least a while now seeing how Google initiated the rollout with a server-side switch.
The initial stable version of the service only supports options from the Android System settings menu, allowing swift access to things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in just a few taps. The screenshot below demonstrates the gist of the functionality in action — i.e. how users simply need to search for a specific feature by typing it out in order to access it instead of navigating to it "by hand" — and also illustrates its biggest issue to a degree.
Is… this it?
When Google first announced Android Slices, it debuted them as part of the Digital Wellbeing program, an initiative meant to help owners of devices powered by its operating system save time and achieve a better balance between screen time and doing things human beings did in the dark ages of not having a screen in their pockets at all times like looking up and talking to other screen-free people.
The crux of the problem with how the premier version of Android Slices is handled is that it's simply not helpful enough. Initial tests performed by Android Headlines show that trying to take advantage of Google's newest shortcuts requires typing out a significant portion of their names. Wi-Fi settings require typing out "wi-fi" with the hyphen included; adaptive brightness options need one of those words in the search bar as well.
This high clarity bar kills a lot of potential Android Slices harbor. Typing in a double-digit amount of letters isn't faster usually isn't faster than navigating to a setting two menus away from the Home screen and that action compares even less favorably to launching Google Assistant and simply telling it to "open adaptive brightness settings" or something along those lines. Even third-party voice assistants such as Bixby are capable of performing such navigational tasks with zero issues and supreme consistency, so it's not just that Android Slices are inferior to some alternatives – they're inferior to most of them.
Yes, Android Slices are still better than how search used to perform, which was to surface nothing but a shortcut to a setting one was looking for, yet the ability to take action directly from the results window is limited by how sluggish the system is at delivering what you want in the first place. For what's supposed to be the world's most advanced company in the field of consumer-grade artificial intelligence, Google certainly hasn't impressed with this service, at least not yet.
Things can't stay (this) bad forever
The plus side of any solution powered by machine learning is that it can hardly get worse the more it's used, assuming the majority of its users are leveraging it in the way it was intended to be leveraged. Still, Google may have a hard time getting its hands on enough action data in order to improve Android Slices in the immediate future if the solution stays this cumbersome to use.
It's currently unclear when Android Slices will start rolling out to owners of non-Pixel smartphones and tablets but not only is that demographic presently not missing out on much but it can already utilize much more refined alternatives offered by launchers like Nova.