Modern-day, easily installable apps are without doubt one of this generation’s greatest technical achievements, but most have a fatal flaw: they live siloed alongside one another. Your phone’s contacts app, for instance, doesn’t readily expose the phone numbers, addresses, and names it contains to your phone’s broader software, just as your music service of choice doesn’t share your go-to playlists and favorite albums.
That (frequently inherent) limitation makes quickly surfacing said info a chore, generally — looking up a friend’s email address requires opening finding your address book, for instance. But on Android soon, it might not be for much longer: on Tuesday, Google took the wraps off In Apps, an feature that brings data within your installed apps to the fore.
In Apps is fairly self-explanatory. Using the built-in Google Search function of your Android phone, you can search for people you’ve added to your contacts app, messages you’ve exchanged with friends, emails you’ve received and sent, songs you’ve recently listened to, and even notes and tasks you’ve saved. Type “sushi,” for instance, and you might see a text you sent a friend about that new neighborhood joint you wanted to check out. Enter “Katy Perry,” instead, and you’ll see the pop sensation’s latest tracks and singles. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: You can surface to-do lists and notes, check upcoming calendar entries, and find misplaced appointments.
In Apps works across devices via the Google Search app — there’s no hardware or operating system requirement to speak of, thankfully. And all the more impressively, it works offline, without an internet connection.
The problem is the third-party integration — or lack thereof. Only Gmail, Spotify, and YouTube support In Apps at launch, but Google said expanded support’s in the pipeline. In the coming months, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Evernote, Glide, Todoist, and Google Keep will join the In Apps fray, but only if you so choose — individual integrations can be toggled off individually.
In Apps will roll out gradually in the Google Search app over the coming days, Google said. LG’s upcoming G20, though, will get an exclusive when it debuts next week: It’ll be the first smartphone with a dedicated In Apps shortcut on its home screen and secondary ticker display. Furthermore, it will support searching within LG’s pre-installed software in addition to the aforementioned Google and third-party apps.
In Apps is in many ways an evolution of Android’s Deep Indexing, a feature that exposes app content to Google Search on the web. Googling showtimes for a particular movie, for instance, surfaces a link to the relevant IMDb listing, while searching for a recipe might expose a page within Allthecooks. App Indexing debuted alongside Android 4.4 KitKat in 2013 with 13 initial integrations — a number that Google said has since grown exponentially.
More broadly speaking, In Apps is a sign of Google’s ambitions: to turn Search into more than a mere web portal. In July, for instance, Search gained the ability to show hotel and flight information directly in results. And a more recent update saw the Google app land the ability to search for and play back podcast episodes in Search.