I like to think that one of our big responsibilities here at AppStorm is to try out new methods of customizing and improving our phone experience, then translating the technical jargon of developers, and delivering to our readers a clear and concise method for that customization.
So, when I had been reading on the forums that a way had been worked out to add Google Now to a lot of ICS phones, I jumped right on it.
Google Now Please
It’s important to note that there are a few prerequisites for this to work and those require many phones to be rooted and running a custom ROM.
The first requirement is that you’re running an AOSP/AOKP ROM. For those who don’t know, AOSP is Android Open Source Project and AOKP is Android Open Kang Project. The former is generally found in CyanogenMod and the latter is simply called by its name, AOKP.
The second requirement is that the ROM is Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.4 based. Since you’ll be flashing a zip file with the required files, you’ll also need a custom recovery such as ClockworkMod.
Before I get started, there is another thing to note. Because of the differences in the way some processors work, there is a different file for the ARMv7 and ARMv6 processors. However, I imagine this is of little concern for the bmajority of Android users as the ARMv6 architecture is quite old.
If you don’t know what your phone is, check this comprehensive list.
The ARMv6 version won’t work fully but you will still get a lot of the features. From what I can tell, the ARMv7 version is quite complete.
Also worth noting, I ran into trouble on some ROMs that weren’t AOKP. Trying to install Google Now on HTC Sense 4.0 and MIUI ICS seemed successful at first. On MIUI, I was even allowed to use the Voice Search without issue. However, when I tried to enable Google Now, I found myself in a world of force closes that ultimately led back to AOSP.
The app’s makers claim it works on many devices without AOSP/AOKP but I haven’t seen it work yet. Your individual mileage may vary but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.
Let’s Get Flashing
To flash Google Now for ARMv7, follow the below instructions. Don’t worry, it’s simple.
- Download the flashable zip, mikeyxda_v7_Offline.zip, here (mirror).
- Move it to the SD Card of your phone.
- Boot into custom recovery (usually ClockworkMod).
- Make a Nandroid backup (just in case).
- Flash mikeyxda_v7_Offline.zip.
- Reboot your phone.
And for those running ARMv6 devices? Follow the instructions above but download and flash this file instead.
You should now have Google Now. The app will appear in your dock as simply “Google”, with a lower-case “g” in a blue square icon. Tapping this will bring up the Voice Search portion of Google Now. Clicking on your phone’s menu button will bring up a few options. Selecting Settings will display a few more things. You will see Google Now listed in settings. Clicking on it will bring you to a demonstration of the app with an option at the end to enable it, giving you the full suite.
Not Done Yet
That’s it? Not quite. As with many custom solutions, there are a few bugs. In this case, one of the biggest problems was sending an email through Now. Apparently, since this is a modified version of the new Voice functionality, the default Gmail app won’t recognize it as authentic causing it to crash or simply not work.
There’s a fix, though. The instructions below worked for me on CyanogenMod 9. I expect that they should work the same on AOKP.
- Go to Settings > Apps > Gmail
- Download this (a modified Gmail app for ICS).
- Move it to the SD Card.
- Enable installation of unknown sources (Settings > Security > Unknown sources).
- Now go install the app from your SD Card.
If for some reason you cannot uninstall Gmail through the method above, you can delete it manually from /system/app/Gmail.apk. Just make sure you have a backup available if things go awry.
Still Not Done
The final bit of housekeeping comes from setting up the Google Calendar. If you want to be able to add events to your calendar through voice recognition, we have a few more steps to follow. I promise, it’s nearly over.
- Register your phone on Google Calendar.
- Go to Calendar Settings. Click the Mobile Setup tab
- Enter your number and click Send Verification code.
- Your phone will get a text with the verification code.
- Enter it in the verification code field, click Finish Setup and Save (you should receive another message saying that your device is verified).
- Now create a new contact in your phone called Calendar and make the primary number 48368 (which is GVENT).
- Now you can send a text by voice (ie “Text Calendar Dinner at 7PM on Tuesday”). The event will be created on your calendar and you will receive a text notification.
So now what? If you’re curious about what all you can ask, there is a comprehensive list of available questions from XDA here. It allows you to be conversational by asking questions like, “will I need an umbrella tomorrow?” You can also ask about your favorite teams, stock prices, and get directions. Additionally, it allows for some nice hands-free features such as texting and adding appointments (assuming you followed all the directions above).
Is it easy? Well, it’s not the simplest app to install but if you’ve found yourself longing for the next great improvement for Android, it may just be worth it. And unlike Siri, it’s doubtful Google will do anything to pull the plug on it getting ported to “older” devices. In an ideal world, we’d all have Jelly Bean by now but we don’t.
Until we reach the technological utopia of instant upgrades, I hope this guide will satisfy a few hungers.