Google's all about search -- and there's a good chance your Android device is sitting on oodles of untapped search-power potential.
The Android search tool can actually serve as a robust one-stop search center for almost anything imaginable -- your documents, contacts, notes, music, and even listings from services like Amazon, Yelp and Urbanspoon. If you know how to use it, you'll almost never have to turn anywhere else to find information.
The best part? All it takes is a few quick steps to unlock your device's potential.
On Jelly Bean-level devices, just tap the search bar at the top of your home screen or swipe upward from the home button to get into the Google Now search tool. (If you're running a 4.1-level Jelly Bean device that doesn't have a built-in search bar, you can either manually add the Google Search widget to your home screen or go into the Google Search application.)
Once in the search tool, scroll to the bottom of the screen and tap the overflow menu icon -- the three horizontal dots -- then select "Settings" from the menu that appears. (On phones that don't conform to Android 4.x design standards, you may have to press a physical menu button on the device instead of looking for the on-screen command.)
On the screen that appears next, select either "Phone search" or "Tablet search." There, you'll find a list of services and applications that can be enabled for the Android search tool. The length of the list depends on what types of apps you have installed on your device; programs like Amazon, Chrome, Drive, eBay, IMDb, and Yelp are all search-friendly. If you want to search that sort of content and don't have those apps installed, you might want to go fishing in the Google Play Store before performing these steps.
When you're done checking off the stuff you want included, go back and try searching for something. By default, you'll still see Web results -- but swipe over on the bar at the bottom of the screen, and to the right of options like "Web," "Images," and "Places," you'll see an option labeled "Phone" or "Tablet."
Give it a tap and your device will instantly show you relevant results for every service you've selected. It's a virtual ocean of information: When I search my phone for "Android," for example, I see my contacts who have the word "Android" in their title or description, Web pages I've visited in Chrome with the word "Android" in their name, Android-related products from Amazon, and documents in my Google Drive that contain the word "Android" (yeah -- I've got a few of those).
If I search my phone for "Eddie," meanwhile, I see contacts named Eddie, some recent Web pages I visited while looking up Eddie Vedder lyrics, tracks in my music collection by Eddie Vedder, Amazon products related to the term "Eddie," and IMDb listings for actors like Eddie Redmayne.
Pretty slick, right?
The setup process and presentation style is a bit different on devices with older versions of Android, but the basic functionality is the same (yes, even if you're still stuck on a 2.x-level device).
The Android search tool is much more than what it appears to be on the surface; setting it up and learning how to use it can completely change the way you interact with your phone or tablet. So go ahead, give it a whirl -- and get ready to feel the force of Android power.
More Android Power tips and tricks:
• How to make the hottest Android home screens
• Get a world clock on your Android 4.2 lock screen
• Put a phone dialer on your Android home screen (or lock screen)