This new Android feature will make traveling so much easier

Google Assistant on a Pixel 2 XL
Google Assistant on a Pixel 2 XL (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Android's Smart Selection menu can now convert ingredients, currencies, and more.
  • If you select currency or other units of measure, it'll now offer you the option for conversions to other units.
  • The interface is a little clunky at the moment and requires you to switch over to the Google app to see the results.

If you've ever selected a number on Android and seen the option to immediately switch to the phone app, that's Android's Smart Selection at work. Google first released the feature back in 2017 alongside Android 9.0 Pie, and it just gave Smart Selection a nifty new upgrade: unit (and currency) conversions.

Unit conversions in Smart Selection for Android

Source: Android Police (Image credit: Source: Android Police)

It's unclear when the feature first rolled out, but thanks to the sharp-eyed Mishaal Rahman, we know that it was most likely added in the last month, with Google's engineering team marking this feature request as fixed on December 15.

While I wasn't able to get the feature working on my phone, you can check out a demo of it in action, thanks to the folks at Android Police.

As can be seen, while the improved Smart Selection menu does save you the hassle of manually copying units, opening the browser, then pasting the content into Google, it's not the most intuitive implementation, either. It'd be far better if it showed the results of the conversion within the current window itself.

Plus, as a recent user-submitted comment on Google's IssueTracker page shows, there might be some teething problems:

Absolutely does not work. It just opens the Google app, not a window like Translate does. And the search does not even work. "636$", "636£" or "636€" offer results for "636".

While the first part of the complaint is obviously part of the feature's current design (though Google can hopefully improve the user experience in the future), the second part is definitely a real problem that could easily be addressed with improved parsing logic for units and currencies.

It is, nonetheless, a really useful feature to have, whether you're traveling overseas, trying to measure the ingredients for a cake, or are trying to navigate Americans' insistence on avoiding the clearly superior metric system.

Plus, it should work on Android 9, 10, and 11, so unlike most new features, even older devices can join in on the fun. Now, isn't that a feature designed with the Christmas spirit in mind?

Muhammad Jarir Kanji