Google ‘tappable’ shortcuts debut on mobile for Translate and weather, though seem redundant
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Google tappable search looks kind of redundant (screenshot)

American users will get a new way of searching, but is it a glorified reorganization of your apps?

The Google app is introducing new ‘tappable’ shortcuts in mobile search for US users, VP of Product Management Tamar Yehoshua announced early Tuesday. The new feature will be available both on Android and iOS phones, with a few extra features for Android owners.

“The Google search box is great when you’re looking for a specific answer, but there are also moments when you just want to catch up on the latest for topics of interest,” Yehoshua wrote. “Now with a tap on the entertainment shortcut, you can see what’s playing this weekend at your local theater or what to watch on TV. You can also get the latest news from both the small and silver screens. You can tap into news, trailers and reviews that are relevant for you or swipe through listings to catch up on your favorite show.”

The best way to characterize the changes might be as a reorganization of common search parameters. Just as many location-based/check-in apps have favorite locations or how some users reserve favorite website icons in web browsers, Google has already defined rough search results for sports, restaurants, local weather, flights, translation (via Google Translate), and more. But it will also include other frequent search queries like currency conversion and internet speed tests. It’s unclear if the latter will be available in a developer’s option for webmasters.

“To find the most timely and recently used shortcuts, make sure your Google app is updated to the latest version,” Yehoshua directs readers, “then look for your shortcuts right underneath the search box. You’ll see new shortcuts appear for big moments and events moving forward.”

Of course, many of these categories are pretty general (aside from things like currency conversion). They also commit the common error among media (and social media) companies that some users even care about lifestyle or sports sections (and don’t even broach political topics with some people).

Google search shortcuts, screenshots

It’s not clear if these shortcuts would change automatically or manually should they never be used. For instance, it’s hard to imagine some people ever using a florist and with dwindling car ownership it might be unnecessary to have a button for gas station locations. It’s also worth questioning the inclusion of ‘Roll a die’ or ‘Coin flip’ in the same category with tools of necessity like Google Translate or currency converters

The push looks more like a way to circumvent some competitor apps or at least channeling traffic through Google before you reach apps for an entertainment site like Rotten Tomatoes or a sports site like ESPN. (presumably, you would be rerouted to a mobile site’s companion app anyway). Google also already provides automatic weather updates for mobile users, while some phones will reorganize frequently used apps automatically.

There was no word on roll-out to users outside the US.

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