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Pixel Launcher could soon give you the freedom to choose your own web search engine

The app present in the latest Android 14 build includes a hidden "Search engine" choice screen.
By
January 12, 2024
Google Pixel 8 homescreen in hand outdoors
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • The Pixel Launcher in the latest Android 14 QPR 2 Beta 3 build includes a hidden setting called “Search Engine.”
  • This setting could let you select the app you use to search the web, presumably affecting the universal search feature on the Pixel Launcher.
  • The feature is not currently live and may roll out in the future.

The Pixel Launcher is one of the better Pixel-only features that Google reserves for its own phones. One handy feature on the Pixel Launcher is universal search through the search bar, letting you search just about everything: apps, contacts, settings, content, and the web. Google appears to be making a significant change to how this search works, though, as the latest Android 14 update has a hidden search setting.

As spotted by Nail Sadykov, the Pixel Launcher app within the recently launched Android 14 QPR 2 Beta 3 contains a hidden search settings item called “Search Engine.” The string within the setting describes the setting as “Select the app you’ll use to search the web. This will affect search and content on your home screen.”

Based on the description, we can presume that the feature will let Pixel users search the default search engine for their device, affecting Pixel Launcher’s universal search and other search features on the device. Currently, Google defaults to Google Search for these tasks, but the presence of the setting indicates the company could be opening it up to other search engines Like Bing, DuckDuckGo, and others.

It remains to be seen if changing the default search engine to another third-party search engine will also change the design of the search bar widget on the Pixel Launcher’s home screen.

Lance Adams spotted some search engine flags on Chrome for Android that could be related to the feature. The #enable-search-engine-choice flag enables the search engine choice screen and related features. The choice screen will be displayed in the first run experience, profile creation flow, and more. The flag also enables the new UI for the search engine settings page on Chrome for desktop and Android.

Google has been facing various challenges from regulatory agencies worldwide on how it conducts business across its verticals, with several rulings branding many Google businesses as monopolies. In some regions, regulatory agencies have mandated Google to allow users to choose the default search engine on Android as a whole. The changes spotted in Pixel Launcher appear in line with those requirements. It remains to be seen if this choice screen on the Pixel Launcher will be made available even in regions where Google is not facing a regulatory challenge.