4 Google Now on Tap Features You Didn’t Know About

Rohan Naravane 17-03-2017

Google Now on Tap is a useful tool introduced in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It can scan through the contents of your screen and intelligently provide Knowledge Cards of important related information. For example, if a friend texted you about a certain restaurant, Now on Tap would be able to pick up the restaurant name from the conversation and give you its website, directions, menu, hours, and phone number.


Even though Now on Tap has been replaced by Google Assistant Google Assistant Is Coming to More Smartphones Google is beginning to roll Google Assistant out to more smartphones. Unfortunately, the majority of Android handsets are not included in this initial rollout thanks to fragmentation. Read More , many folks still might be using Now on Tap for a variety of reasons. Maybe your phone wasn’t eligible for the upgrade or you didn’t want to upgrade because you’re not a fan of Google Assistant. Either way, Now on Tap still has lots of underrated features.

And is Google Assistant even better than Now on Tap? Well, the new artificial intelligence is interactive, can be controlled via voice, and has 3rd party app integration — you can read more about it in our Google Pixel XL review Google Pixel XL Review and Giveaway Google's first branded device delivers one of the best devices in the Android ecosystem: the $770 Pixel XL. The XL launched with similar specs as the $500 Nexus 6P, but is it worth $770? Read More . But there are a few extra tricks Now on Tap can perform that Assistant can’t.

How to Revert to Now on Tap

At this point, if you like, there are a couple of ways you can keep using Now on Tap by preventing the phone from updating automatically to Assistant.

Non-Root Method: Change the Language

Because some regions still don’t have access to Google Assistant, you can trick your device into thinking you’re in one of those regions by changing your language. In your System Settings, select Languages & input and select Add a language. You can use English (U.S. Virgin Islands) or any other region where Assistant isn’t available yet.

Root Method: Edit the build.prop

If you have a rooted device, you can edit the build.prop file to prevent the update to Assistant too. Using your preferred root browser, go to the System folder and open the build.prop file with a text editor.


Change ro.opa.eligible_device=true to ro.opa.eligible_device=false, then save the build.prop file. It’s essentially the inverse of this hack you could use to get Assistant early How to Get Google Assistant on Non-Pixel Phones Google's new Assistant is only available on Pixel phones, but here's a tweak that lets you enable it on any rooted phone running Android 7.0 or newer. Read More .

1. Quick Dictionary

While the iPhone and iPad have a built-in dictionary that can be invoked by highlighting a word and tapping the “Define” button, Android doesn’t have a similar feature. Though if you use Now on Tap, you can get definitions of words or even whole phrases.

All you have to do is this: highlight a word, then press and hold the Home button. By highlighting the word, you’re telling Now on Tap explicitly what you’re focusing on, so it will throw results based on that word alone.

4 Google Now on Tap Features You Didn't Know About google now on tap dictionary 1


For people using Android phones with Google Assistant built in, you can get the same result by doing the same action. Then, after Google Assistant pops up, scroll below to see the Knowledge Card bearing the meaning of the word.

There are times when highlighting a single word isn’t possible, for example in instant messaging conversations or in a tweet, as the same action highlights the entire thing. In this case, you’ll need to press and hold the Home button, and after the Now on Tap screen is up, press the button that looks like a pointing finger. You’ll now be able to tap on a word within the text and find its meaning.

4 Google Now on Tap Features You Didn't Know About google now on tap select word dictionary 1

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to do this method using Google Assistant.


2. Take Screenshots Without Key Combos

If you’re a power user, this has probably happened to you. You’re eating food with one hand and using the phone with the other, rendering you incapable of pressing the power and volume down button (or the power and home button) at the same time to take a screenshot. If you still have a phone that runs Now on Tap, fear not, as screenshots can be easily taken by simply pressing and holding the Home button, then hitting the “share symbol” button. This takes a screenshot and opens up the share menu.

Although the first iteration of Google Assistant didn’t have the “Take Screenshot” feature, it has been added in subsequent updates. Unfortunately, you still can’t take screenshots of the home screen, like you could with Now on Tap.

3. Quick Shortcuts

iOS has Control Center, a universally-accessible set of toggles and shortcuts to frequently used apps like the calculator or clock. On an Android device with Now on Tap, however, if you press and hold the Home button, you’ll see quick shortcuts to create reminders, add calendar entries, set an alarm, or begin turn-by-turn navigation to your work or home.

4 Google Now on Tap Features You Didn't Know About google now on tap quick shortcuts 1


Google Assistant does not have such quick shortcuts, but you can perform all those actions by simply asking it.

4. Identify Objects in Images

Here’s another cool trick that uses Google’s advanced machine-learning algorithms (the same kind that Google Photos uses How to Make Google Photos Work for You with These Tips Google Photos could be the much-awaited solution to manage all your photos. But is it the best among all online photo sharing sites? Read More ) to understand objects and subjects within an image. Open the camera app, point at something — maybe a beer can, a famous monument, or an item at the grocery store — and press and hold the Home button.

You can also do the same to an image that already exists in your photo gallery. If Google recognises the contents of the image, it hopefully should provide you with relevant information. For example, scanning a box of a Withings activity tracking watch correctly showed us the company information and what product it was.

4 Google Now on Tap Features You Didn't Know About google now on tap image search 1

Fortunately, this object recognition feature works in Google Assistant too. Just press and hold the Home button with the image opened full screen, and swipe up once the Assistant opens. Fair warning: this feature doesn’t work as reliably as others. We assume Google’s image recognition technology isn’t mature enough to identify any object in an image yet.

What Do You Think?

Unfortunately, like 3D Touch on an iPhone Why 3D Touch Might Make You Switch to an iPhone Android fans: we can no longer claim we have the best smartphone. Read More , these features aren’t very obvious due to the lack of visual cues. Still, if you know these features are there, they can definitely come in handy.

Have you ever used any of these Now on Tap features? How do you think the Google Assistant compares to Now on Tap? Sound off in the comments below.

Related topics: Google Assistant, Google Now.

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  1. Rowan Gonzalez
    March 19, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    I learned something new today. I honestly never consciously used Google Now before, but now I will. Thanks! :-D

    • Rohan Naravane
      March 20, 2017 at 6:57 am

      Glad to hear that Rowan!

  2. ?
    March 18, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    "can be controlled via voice" = "can't be controlled via typing" ? a big ? IMO. ?

    • Rohan Naravane
      March 20, 2017 at 7:00 am

      Google Now on Tap also couldn't be controlled via typing, it would do screen reading after a press-and-hold of the home button.

      • ?
        March 20, 2017 at 7:35 am

        You are right. And now I think the text selection feature in Now on Tap is essential to me, with the fact that there is no quick and dirty way to select text from Apps.

        • Rohan Naravane
          March 20, 2017 at 10:10 am

          Yeah, I really hope they add the text selection feature to Assistant.

  3. CapaxGlobility
    March 18, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Luckily, I have both the wonderful Assistant, and the phenomenal Now launcher. As it stands I love them both, however, due to Google's expertise in UIs, there are no home screen launchers that can even come close in comparison. With reports suggesting Google is stopping updates on their Now launcher, I'm very relieved my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge has the assistant. It may not be quite what the Now launcher is yet, but it's potential is far more greater than Now, at a much earlier date.

    • Russ
      March 18, 2017 at 11:05 pm

      I do believe that Action Launcher 3 is constantly supported and does most, if not all , or even more then the Google launcher. I have a galaxy s7 edge and I know it's a personal preference but prefer AL3 over all launchers as of this statement. I try others and customize all the time but I always come back and prefer AL3.
      Google assistant works great with AL3 also!

  4. Jay Turner
    March 18, 2017 at 8:47 am

    That last one isn't quite true, it found it because of the text on the box!

    • Rohan Naravane
      March 18, 2017 at 10:08 am

      Hey Jay,

      Yes, there's a chance it read the text on the box to decipher what it was in that particular example, but I just took a pic of my laptop and it did identify without the presence of any text: [Broken Link Removed]

      But fair to say that this feature is pretty nascent at this point, and only identifies objects that are really popular.