Good news, Android fans. A developer over on the forever awesome XDA Developers forums has figured out how to extract Google Now from Android Jelly Bean and port it over to devices running Ice Cream Sandwich. The process for doing so requires a slightly geeky skill set, of course. You have to have a rooted device and you’ll need to be comfortable navigating through the Android file system, for starters. But assuming that’s you, then you can be among the first to try Google Now in (nearly) all its glory.
In case you’re wondering what the big fuss is about, Google Now is only the most innovative, futuristic, and even downright creepy updates to Google’s search service ever to come. Instead of presenting a blank box where you type in text and hit enter, Google Now flips the search paradigm on its head. It alerts you to things you’ll want to know about before you search for them. Yes, really. Billed as a smart personal assistant to rival Apple’s Siri, Google Now comes pre-loaded on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean devices (the most recent version of Android, introduced at Google I/O), and proactively alerts you to things like weather changes, flight times and delays, sports scores, interesting places near you where you might like to eat, shop or visit, and more.
Google Now works best in a situation where it’s deeply embedded in the Android operating system itself, as in Jelly Bean, which may be why Google has made the decision not to release it as a native app for older versions of Android (either that, or the native build is still in progress. Fingers crossed!). But serious Android fans don’t have to wait to upgrade their OS to get most of the functionality Google Now offers.
XDA Developers forum user febycv figured out how to extract Google Now from Jelly Bean, and, by modifying the build.prop file, users can install the modified APK file.
He posted the instructions here on the original thread which detail the steps involved.
- Open Root Explorer & navigate to /system
- Now Open build.prop in Text Editor.
- Edit ro.build.version.sdk = 16 & save.
- Now go to /system/app & Rename GoogleQuickSearchBox.apk to GoogleQuickSearchBox.apk1
- Now reboot & install the app from the download link (mirror).
- Now edit build.prop & change ro.build.version.sdk = 15 & reboot.
There’s also a second method in another forum thread which doesn’t involve editing the build.prop file. The link for that one is found on post #142 on this page. The news made its way through the Android developer community just prior to the holiday, thanks to post on XDA itself. (But now we’re all finally sober enough to try it out.)
Depending on your device, and your general good luck, you may experience some issues with the hacked app, including an inability to use voice search and other bugs.
Regardless of which method you attempt, keep in mind that rooting your phone and making modifications like this is something you should only attempt if you understand the risks involved. If you don’t know your way around Android, you can do some serious damage.
However, if you have been searching night and day since Google I/O for a hack that lets you install and run Google Now, then you’re definitely in luck. I’m even digging out my old Android phone (the sad little one with the cracked screen) just for the hell of it in order to see how well this hack works. If you’re bold enough to give it a go, let us know how it turned out for you.