App shortcuts have been around in Android for years, allowing you to quickly jump to certain pages in an app. However, discovery has always been a problem for app shortcuts, since they’re usually only displayed when you hold down on an app’s home screen icon. This is changing in Android 12, where they will be tightly integrated with Google Assistant.
“App shortcuts are already a popular way to automate most common tasks on Android,” Google wrote in a blog post today. “Thanks to the new APIs for Shortcuts in Android 12, it’s now easier to find all the Assistant queries that are supported with apps. If you build an Android Shortcut, it will automatically show up in the Assistant Shortcuts gallery, so users can choose to set up a personal voice command in your app, when they say ‘Hey Google, shortcuts’.”
It remains to be seen if simply adding existing app shortcuts to the Google Assistant shortcuts gallery will help discoverability, since you have to ask for that (or find it in the complex maze that is the Google app/Assistant home page), but Assistant will also suggest shortcuts automatically. “For example, when using the eBay app, people will see a suggested Google Assistant Shortcut appear on the screen and have the option to create a shortcut for ‘show my bids’.”
Google is also introducing a new variation of Android shortcuts, called dynamic shortcuts, designed specifically for Google Assistant. Unlike normal app shortcuts, which either don’t change at all or only occasionally refresh (e.g. Gmail creating one for each email account), dynamic shortcuts are intended to constantly update based on user actions. One of the examples Google provides is for a food delivery app that creates a shortcut to re-order an item after the first order is placed. Assistant will display dynamic shortcuts as suggestions, and they will also function as voice commands.