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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Even though Now on Tap has been replaced by Google Assistant, many folks still might be using Now on Tap for a variety of reasons.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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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) 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.
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, 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.