I have been a victim of the infamous "let's turn off anything that Apple might have a patent for" aka "dumb search" on the Galaxy S3, and looking for a simple way to return my phone to the 21st century.

All I want is the ability to find an App quickly and launch it by name, without visually finding the Icon.

What I want is a set of features that existed in older versions of Android

  1. In the Apps main screen, have the ability to search (currently works only for widgets)
  2. If I find an App, I can press and hold it, and it will allow me to place it on any home screen

Use case #1 was removed and replaced by the Google Search app, which was as mentioned above downgraded to stop including local search (only shows web results)

Use case #2 was removed and has no workaround, I need to visually find an app to add a shortcut to it

I have searched in the Android Play store for "App Search", but found nothing, should I start writing my own app?

  • See this question (possible dupe). Thanks to the ubiquitous patent wars in the mobile space, Google & Samsung had to remove this functionality (at least for the US market)
    – ce4
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 14:44
  • 1
    @ce4 I don't think this is close enough to be a dupe, feel free to post the relevant part of the answer there as your own nswer here thought! Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 16:44

4 Answers 4


You can revert to your completely old behaviour. It needs some hacking though and might be illegal (decompile & recompile Google app)

Background: If you don't have root, you cannot install the old version over the new one.
What you could do: Install an app with the functions of the old Search app.
Idea: If the old app had a different package name, you could install it next to the new app.
How? Apktool!

Solution proposal:
Use apktool to decompile and change the whole namespace from com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox to com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox2 of a working old .apk (see .zip below, mind the 2 in the end), then recompile and install the newly crafted package.

Result: Old and new (broken) providers can be installed next to each other at the same time because they have a different namespace (.*searchbox2 instead of .*searchbox). Just find out which one is the old one and use that.

Benefits: No root required, permanent (cannot be taken away)
Drawbacks: You get 2x the same widget offering (1x from the old, 1x from the new), so you have to find out which works and which not

My test so far ('apktool' is an alias to 'java -jar /usr/local/bin/apktool.jar' on my machine, FYI):

apktool decompile GoogleQuickSearchBox.apk appdir
#append every occurrence of the namespace with '2'
find appdir -type f | while read a; do sed -i 's,uicksearchbox,uicksearchbox2,g' $a; done
#rename the directory to reflect that too
mv appdir/smali/com/google/android/googlequicksearchbox smali/com/google/android/googlequicksearchbox2
apktool build /tmp/bla.apk appdir
#Any sort of signing (jarsigner, signapk.jar,...):
java -jar /tmp/signapk.jar /tmp/certificate.pem /tmp/key.pk8 /tmp/bla.apk /tmp/gsearch2.apk
adb install /tmp/gsearch2.apk

Old solution

What would be nice to know: Does this only affect Samsung and Google's US customers?
According to Android Central, Samsung now deploys this update as a stability fix globally.

It's most probably this package, that got "updated":
com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox (located at /system/app/GoogleQuickSearchBox.apk)

Having root is definitely required to revert the situation.

I'd however decide to get rid of Samsungs firmware altogether and install CyanogenMod for example (This might even be easier than getting root in the first place on the original firmware).

You might want to "reinstall" the unaffected version from the last firmware or one of a Euro firmware (if they're not stripped). For example, this archive from the popular Goo.im hosting site will most probably have a working (older) .apk that has the functionality you miss. It's a generic installation package for the popular Cyanogenmod aftermarket firmware that holds all relevant proprietary packages from Google (they had to be stripped off Cyanogenmod by Google's request some time ago). You can open it with any unzip program and extract the /system/app/GoogleQuickSearchBox.apk package.

That's how I would do it (using the adb tool from the Google SDK:

adb push GoogleQuickSearchBox.apk /sdcard/
adb shell
mount -o remount,rw /system
cp /sdcard/GoogleQuickSearchBox.apk /system/data/
mount -o remount,ro /system

I used Application Explorer to generate this listing and see where the .apk is located:

App Name: Google-Search
Package Name: com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox


Source Directory:

You can get the version of 'Google-Search' by going to Settings->Apps->All->Google Search, which lists the current version. Mine (the same as in the above mentioned .zip is:

  • The drawback is easy too: you can just disable the original app from settings :)
    – user13391
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 8:47
  • btw, you can use adb remount for remounting.
    – ccpizza
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 1:05

Is there an app for searching installed apps?

Yes. Several apps exist on the Play Store for the express purpose of searching through the apps you have on your device.

I've linked several ones here, and you can see which one you prefer.

Thing is, these apps were hard to find. I wanted this function too, and a simple search on the web didn't turn these applications out at first.

  • App Search Plus

    Lightweight, optimized, simple, pretty. Full disclosure: I developed this app!

  • FAST App Search Tool

    A long-serving and mature application that's highly rated on the Store. Really small.

Another solution that you might want to consider is to use an alternative launcher like Nova Launcher. You can configure a swipe down in the launcher to start an app search.


Google Search, aka Google Now can search installed apps on your Android device. Yes, it is super-slow, especially on older phones, but it includes among other things the 'Search Phone/Tablet' option. I was looking for a cleaner and faster alternative that does not search everything, including the web, but finally ended up using it nonetheless, because all alternatives I tried are half-baked or crash on my devices.

If you fiddle a bit in the settings, there are things that can be disabled under tablet search, e.g. disabling the Google Now feature makes it somewhat faster.

To launch it, simply tap the Google Search bar, or tap and hold the home button.

google search


Apparently, there is now (was created after this question was asked): Conjure - Search your phone.

Conjure helps you quickly find things on your phone. Search for apps, contacts, files, calendar events, & more. Conjure learns from your usage to provide you with the best results.

Conjure's focus is on speed and it is designed to help you find what you are looking for in as few taps as possible. It supports partial searches, fuzzy searches, and abbreviations.

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