Google's Pixel hardware leads the pack of the best Android phones around, and part of that success rests on loads of software features that you can’t find on other devices. Pixel-exclusive features like Now Playing, Live Translate, Call Screen, and more are so nifty that people jump through hoops to install ported/modded/replicated versions of them — or even custom ROMs that enable them. As a consequence, we're always happy to see when an effort is made to bring some of that functionality to other Android devices — and that seems to be what's happening right now.
You’ve probably seen or heard about many of these features even if you don’t have a Pixel phone, but the Pixel also has a couple of other lesser-known (but still very useful) tricks. One of those features is the ability to quickly copy or share links from the Recents menu. Pixel phones have long been able to select text or images from the Recents menu, but it’s only with the Android 12 update that they gained the ability to select URLs as well.
The documentation for this feature calls it “recents URL sharing” and explicitly notes that it's only available “on Pixel devices running Android 12 or higher." The documentation explains, "After visiting the content in an app, the user can swipe to the Recents screen and find the app where they viewed the content, then tap the link button to copy or share the URL.”
Despite what Google says about the feature only being available on Pixel devices, though, we recently learned that ASUS implemented it in its ZenUI software available on devices like the new Zenfone 10. ASUS appears to have added the feature in the company’s Android 13 release, as it wasn’t available on my ROG Phone 5 until I updated it.
Recents URL sharing works with a couple of Google apps like Chrome, YouTube, and Google Maps, but it doesn’t work with many third-party apps. That’s not surprising, though, considering the feature has thus far been exclusive to Pixel phones. It’s a shame that more apps don’t work with it, though, since it saves you a few taps and seems to be pretty easy for devs to support.
More developers would presumably add support for the feature if it were available on more devices, and fortunately it doesn’t seem to be too complicated for OEMs to implement on their end, either. What’s mainly missing from AOSP is code that takes the URLs provided by apps through the AssistContent#setWebURI API, as well as code to show the 🔗 button in the Recents overview. The source for the Android Go Edition launcher actually shows off how to do this (kind of), as it appears to use the same APIs to send the URL from Chrome to the Assistant app when the user taps Translate or Listen in the Recents menu.
Android 12 Go Edition introduced the ability to translate or listen to webpages right from the Recents menu.
Hopefully, more OEMs decide to adapt the Pixel’s nifty Recents menu enhancements. Being able to select text, images, or URLs from the Recents menu may not sound like it would be game-changingly useful — and you’re right that it’s not. But ask people who’ve switched from Pixel to another brand, and they’ll probably tell you it’s one of the features they miss.