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 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 ability to search (currently works only for widgets)
  2. If I find an App, I can press and hold, 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 have 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?

  • 4
    Gesture Search claims to search apps as well as contacts, bookmarks, and music tracks.
    – ale
    Jul 17, 2012 at 14:38
  • 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
    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! Jul 17, 2012 at 16:44
  • @MatthewRead: Done. Found a new unique way to revert just to the old behavour withouth apple's / google's approval, no root required. Permanent solution. Yay!
    – ce4
    Jul 17, 2012 at 23:44
  • @EranMedan: Could you (or someone else) give feedback if this method is doable and works correctly? I only have a full patched phone (Nexus S) running CyanogenMod9. Just if I oversaw something.
    – ce4
    Jul 18, 2012 at 7:55

9 Answers 9


(EDIT) New solution:

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

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) provider 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

(EDIT: Old solution)
What would be nice to know: Does this only affect Samsunng and Google's US customers?
According to androidcentral, 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 orginal 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 :)
    – R R
    Jul 18, 2012 at 8:47
  • This is a great answer, I'm just wondering, isn't there anyone out there who wrote a simple app searching app? I find it hard to believe I'm going to write the first one :)
    – Eran Medan
    Jul 18, 2012 at 21:13
  • Sure will there be an app for that, the demand for that only came up now (thank you, Apple!).
    – ce4
    Jul 19, 2012 at 7:35
  • You're welcome. Thanks also goes to @MatthewRead for poking me in the OP comments to initially compile an answer :-) I guess you got it working then? Just curious...
    – ce4
    Jul 22, 2012 at 14:07
  • btw, you can use adb remount for remounting.
    – ccpizza
    Mar 13, 2014 at 1:05

Here is my first Free Android APP named "Quickly", available in Google Play store.

This App allows you to:

  • Search all Installed Apps
  • List all Recently used Apps
  • Sort installed Apps alphabetically

Clicking on the button, which is right side of search box, shall switch the App listing from Alphabetically sorted to Recently used and vice-versa.

Your valuable review/feedback/suggestions are most welcome.


Gesture Search is very nice (see the comment by Al Everett). It uses gestures to pick up letters which means you have more screen real estate (no on-screen keyboard shown). It doesn't show google suggestions which I don't need anyway, so it's a win-win for me (more space for what I'm interested in). My only complaints would be about the accuracy of the character recognition - but I hope they'll work on it some more - and i wish I would have the ability to add custom searches for web sites or applications (a la WebOS).

Also very well complemented by Gesture Bar - which allows quick access to Gesture Search from the notification area or with a long press on the search button (which is the one I like).

  • But why, why doesn't it have an option to just use the on-screen keyboard?
    – ccpizza
    Mar 13, 2014 at 1:01
  • I actually like that it doesn't use the internal keyboard. Cuts down the time to startup. I don't like the few seconds I have to wait for the Swype keyboard to initialize :)
    – rslite
    Mar 17, 2014 at 13:25


This App allows you to:

- Search all Installed Apps
- List all Recently used Apps
- Sort installed Apps alphabetically

Clicking on the button, which is right side of search box, shall switch the App listing from Alphabetically sorted to Recently used and vice-versa.

  • What's the name of the app? Please edit your answer. :)
    – geffchang
    Jun 21, 2013 at 7:23

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!

  • Quickdroid Search

  • FAST App Search Tool

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

  • App Dialer

    Comes with a T9 keyboard for one-handed search, and includes contact search as well.

  • Rapidly

    Similar interface to App Dialer; shows apps in a grid.

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

Google Gesture Search is not bad, and it works, but it is too much work for me to draw each character - definitely not in my list of 'productivity' apps. Imo, it is more of a proof of concept app, or an drawing API demo rather than anything else.


There seems to be another alternative to AppDialer called Fastly.


It displays apps in a grid allowing to view 12 icons at once. Also, allows to search using native keyboard as Conjure & Quickly.


I've tested all the apps listed here and more. And finally settles with 'App Search Plus' https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=rjt.appsearch

Reasons: 1. Its load time is the fastest of all. Very snappy. 2. Displays results instantly 3. Zero permissions required

Really a lifesaver. Thanks a lot to the developer

  • 2
    Installs: 500-1000. Are you affiliated to this app?
    – Firelord
    Oct 11, 2015 at 14:21

Apparently there is now (was created after this question was asked)


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