The best Android M feature is Google Now on Tap

Android M feature Google Now on Tap
Android M feature Google Now on Tap

When I pulled up a chair at Google IO and asked what was new on tap, I was cutely told that Google Now on Tap is the latest and greatest part of the Android M selection.

It's so new that this feature is not part of the just released developer preview. Instead Now on Tap is coming "later this year," likely debuting with the full Android M update.

What does it serve up? Even faster Google search shortcuts within a menu overlay, meaning you don't have to stray too far from an app to find the right results.

It takes the power of Google Now and the ever-wise knowledge graph, and attempts to predict what you want to know and where you want to find it - all without your input needed.

It's Pitch Perfect

Google Now on Tap works best when it answers the awkward questions that come up during real-life conversations, like an email or Hangout exchange.

Android M feature Google Now on Tap

You can 'Google it' in any app without lifting a finger off the home button

"Want to see Pitch Perfect 2?" You think, what the heck is that again? "I'd see anything with Anna Kendrick." Isn't that the girl from... No, I'm thinking of Anna Paquin.

Within Android 5.0 Lollipop, these questions required closing the chat, scrolling through your app-filled screen, opening up Chrome and typing in the "what" and the "who" to investigate.

Android M promises to reduce these cumbersome steps: Hold the on-screen home button of a Nexus 6 and a new menu pops up in place of the old, circular Google Now shortcut.

The knowledge graph slides up from the bottom of the screen after scanning what's been said in your conversation, and it tells you about the movie and actress.

Two Google Now cards contain pithy information and a photo of each, and their own set of shortcuts to apps like IMDB, Flixster and Twitter. Only then are you pulled into a different app.

It gets even faster

"But what films do I know her from?," you ask. She's that actress from that movie where that... thing happens. Google voice search can even understand your very non-specific questions.

Android M feature Google Now on Tap

A Google Now card comes up with apps in tow

It'll even understand "her" is Anna Kendrick. It won't start bringing up the movie "Her," like a Siri web search might do.

This is Google's long-standing promise to understand the word "it." It judges what you are asking based on the context of the app you're using and the words or images within.

Who's the lead singer of that band?

Proving that Google Now On Tap works outside of its own set of apps, the company said that it extends to rival music streaming services like Spotify.

Android M feature Google Now on Tap

It even handles questions about currently streaming songs

"Okay Google, who's the lead singer?" when the D12 rap group frontman selfishly sings about being the lead singer of "My Band?"

It'll let you know it's Eminem faster than the funny, boastful lyrics do, all without making you do all of the leg work.

Don't worry: it's opt-in

Now on Tap is a time-saving convenience that takes Google's primary business out of the equation: search. It pulls you to the information you want or into the app you need.

Android M feature Google Now on Tap

People, places things - it's all here

But while the app does the searching for you in any app, the Google rep I talked to said that it'll be an opt-in feature. It won't be enabled on Android M automatically.

That way, anyone who has a problem with the privacy aspect of Google looking through an app on command won't have to go through the hassle of disabling it on some back menu.

Not ready for Android M beta

Google's saving the best for last, it turns out. While the app was nearly flawless during my brief Google IO demo, it's still got a few kinks to work out.

Android M feature Google Now on Tap

That's why you won't find it in the Android M developer preview. It's not even ready for the beta, but it's an exclusive you won't find anywhere else.

As much as Google is opening up its software to iOS, like the now iPhone-compatible Google Photos and Google Cardboard VR, this is locked down to Android.

And that makes the iPhone vs Android debate a lot more interesting. "Okay Google, who is winning *it*?"

Matt Swider