Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Android Oreo’s Smart Text Selection Arrives in Stable Google Chrome

It has been a few months since Android Oreo was officially announced, but it has taken quite some time for many of the new features to be incorporated into Android apps. Case in point: Android Oreo’s Smart Text Selection feature. Unveiled during Google I/O 2017, Smart Text Selection lets Android analyze selected text and contextually provide useful buttons. For instance, if you long-press or double tap on an address, Android will suggest you open it in the Maps app; do the same on phone numbers and it will suggest placing a phone call. It’s a really useful feature, but unfortunately applications have to be updated to support it. Here’s a video from Ting that showcases the feature:

It has taken a few months, but Android Oreo’s Smart Text Selection feature is finally available in all builds of Google Chrome for Android. We have confirmed that this feature works on all Chrome variants on a Google Pixel 2 XL running the latest Android 8.1 Oreo release. Google Chrome Beta, Dev, and Canary are all already on or past version 63 (which is the first version that added this feature), but the stable Google Chrome is now starting to receive an update to version 63 in the Google Play Store.

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The Smart Text Selection feature works entirely on-device without sending any data to the cloud for analysis, so you can be rest assured that Google isn’t recording everything you select. It does so using Google’s Machine Learning algorithms, more specifically, the open source TensorFlow Lite library at least according to ArsTechnica. Those same APIs are now available to any developer in Android 8.1 Oreo with the Neural Networks API.

With many companies starting to focus on machine learning technology, we’re bound to see more and more innovative features born in future devices and versions of Android. That unfortunately means that the vast majority of users will be left out in the dark on these features, but thankfully that’s where the XDA forums come in to help devices get the latest version of Android weeks or even months in advance.

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