NEW: Google Links To Apps Not Pages, When Searching For Musicians On Android

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Google has introduced the ability to search for musicians on Android phones and then have apps with more information about them open up.

The new feature is integrated into Google Search and works with the following apps:

  • Google Play
  • YouTube
  • iHeart Radio
  • Spotify
  • TuneIn
  • Rdio

The feature only works for musicians. For example, a search for Katy Perry (as shown in the example above) brings up an information box about her, with links to supported music apps. Tapping on an app brings you into the artist’s page there. In contrast, a search for Perry’s “California Gurls” brings up no such links.

Right now, the feature also seems inconsistent. Links for Perry showed up when searching using the search box widget on a Samsung Galaxy S5; they didn’t when searching from Chrome directly. The YouTube link launched correctly into Katy Perry’s page on YouTube; the Google Play Music link didn’t load Google Play Music at all, though it did work correctly on a Nexus 10.

Outside the information box, links still open pages as has traditionally been the case.

The Bigger Picture

Google has faced an existential threat from apps in mobile. Its all-purpose functionality on the PC didn’t translate into mobile; and the company was in danger of losing its internet “gatekeeper” role as smartphones become primary internet devices.

Google Now, voice search and other initiatives, such as the effort to index apps and deep-link app content, have been partly successful attempts to reinsert search into the center of the mobile user experience. This is more true for Android than iOS, however.

Numerous consumer surveys assert the value and reach of mobile search. But frequency and engagement are less on the PC because of apps (Maps is an exception). Against that backdrop Google has introduced the ability to search for music and then play it immediately in an installed app on your (Android) phone.

This is a useful capability but it’s important to see this in the context of what Google is trying to do more broadly in mobile search: make it more relevant by delivering “answers” and structured content in lieu of a list of links.

These are moves of necessity by Google, packaged as better serving consumers or doing “cool” things with mobile search. It is in part this behavior that has got Google’s critics and rivals so upset, as the company moves further away from its traditional SERP.

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