New Google Search Feature Lets Users Find Data Locked in Android Apps

Google's new Android "In Apps" search mode will let users find information buried in applications without having to open them.

Google In App Search 2

Google is making it easier for Android users to search for information stored in applications that are installed on their devices via a new "In Apps" search mode.

In Apps, which Google announced this week, currently works only with a fairly limited set of applications like Gmail, YouTube and Spotify. It functions much like Google’s desktop search by giving users a single search box to find specific data buried in the applications installed on their Android devices, but unlike Google Search, In App searches are restricted to information the device, not on the web.

For instance, In Apps lets users search for specific contacts or messages on their phone, find the name of a restaurant that a contact might have mentioned in an email or watch a specific video just by typing in the relevant search terms. Users do not need to open an individual application to search through its contents with In Apps.

"Searching your personal results happens entirely on your phone," said Google product manager Timo Mertens in a blog post. "You can search even when you're not connected to WiFi or cellular data."

Search results will be available only to the device owner who also has the ability to specify the applications that can be searched by In Apps or exclude them from being searchable.

To select or exclude apps from being searched, all that a user has to do is go to the Settings function in Google App and select or deselect applications.

Over the next several months, Google will make more Android applications available for search through In Apps. The planned list currently includes LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger, Google Keep, Glide, Evernote and Todoist. Users will be able to search through pre-installed applications as well as applications they may have downloaded on their own.

When the feature is fully rolled out, users will be able to access it via a new In Apps tab in the Google application. Owners of the LG V20 phone will be able to access it via a dedicated short cut on the home screen, Mertens said. The V20 will be the first smartphone to have this capability available as a shortcut on the home screen.

Google has for sometime now been working on making it easier to search for and find apps for mobile devices. The company's Firebase App Indexing technology for instance is designed to give app developers a way to get their app into Google search so when users are looking for something similar they either see it already installed on their device or get an option for installing it in their search results.

This is the first time, however, that the company is giving Android users the ability to search for specific content stored inside installed applications using the search box.

Readers commenting on Google's Inside Search blog in response to Mertens' announcement appeared to welcome the feature.

"This will very useful, particularly if the search algorithm can apply content and other conditions in displaying results," a reader identified as John Heckendorn said.

"It looks awesome!" another commenter Sangwon Lee said. "Finally, there is an easier way to search stuff on the phone."

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.