The Android P Developer Preview introduced a handful of changes to the Pixel Launcher like a more clearly defined shelf and a shortcut to launch Assistant. Google might be testing another tweak that adds an interesting and new “bubble” design for the search bar.
Developer Preview 1 revealed a new Pixel Launcher that more closely integrates Google Assistant thanks to a microphone icon right on the bottom search bar. However, one problematic aspect with the current design is how the white icon is not too visible and somewhat blends into the already light gray search bar.
To account for that, the Pixel Launcher from DP1 (as activated by XDA) has a design that separates the Assistant shortcut in its own oval-ish bubble from the rest of the search bar. The APK features strings that note this “two_bubbles” design is for a “pixel_2018.”
Meanwhile, this change is also applied to the search bar at the top of the app drawer.
We’re still early enough into the Android P developer preview that it’s unclear where Google is taking it’s design. So far, an exact bubble motif has yet to really manifest anywhere else in the upcoming operating system. However, Android P does make heavy use of cards/sheets — which more or less can be used to describe the new standalone microphone icon.
Alternately, this could just be one of the designs that Google frequently A/B tests for the Pixel Launcher and Search.