iOS 10 has made widgets much more noticeable than in past releases. That’s an opportunity for Google to regain some search attention in Apple’s mobile operating system. However, Google’s still not taking advantage of this.
Widgets — think of them as mini-applications that you don’t have to open to interact with — aren’t new to iOS. They’ve been around since iOS 8 was released in 2014. But with iOS 10 out this week, they’ve gained a new prominence as now being offered for the iOS “Search” screen.
That’s right. iOS has a Search screen. That’s the official name of what you get when you swipe right from the Home screen, a name that’s been used since iOS 9.
Widgets can now be added to the iOS Search screen. Given it’s a place expressly designed for searching, you’d think Google would want a search widget there. But so far, there isn’t one.
To give you an idea of what a widget could mean for Google, look at how it works for Microsoft. That’s Google’s chief search competitor in the United States. Microsoft provides a widget for its search companion Cortana:
With the Cortana widget, Microsoft puts the ability for someone to do a search directly via the iOS Search page. OK, tapping “Ask Cortana” actually just launches the Cortana app. And while I put it at the top of my screen, it wouldn’t be there for most people unless they manually moved it higher. But at least Microsoft has a search offering for that page, for iOS users who want it. Google does not.
Microsoft also offers a Bing widget, though it oddly lacks a search box:
That seems an oversight by Microsoft or perhaps there’s some technical issue or outright restriction against iOS 10 widgets offering keyword searching.
Back to Google, it’s more remarkable that it doesn’t offer a Google Search app widget when you consider that it does offer other widgets, including one for Chrome that launches voice search:
Google News has a widget. Google Maps also offers at least two widgets, one for nearby transit times and another for personalized travel times:
Over the years, Apple has slowly but diligently cut Google out of the iOS search ecosystem. Google was replaced by Bing as the default search provider for Siri in 2013. In 2014, Google was replaced by Bing for Spotlight Search.
Google does remain the default search for Safari despite expectations that Apple would drop it there. Still, a Google Search widget would seem a way for Google to claw back some of the exposure it has lost.
That’s even more so given how the new widgets are making the iOS search screen more like Google Now with proactive suggestions. Google Now is part of the Google Search app. Some of its suggestions could flow into a Google Search widget, along with an actual search box.
Then again, if most people are like those I asked about widgets on Twitter, it might not make a difference. My unscientific survey found most people aren’t using iOS widgets (cast your own vote to see the latest results):
Bottom line: don’t expect a Google Search widget any time soon. We did ask Google about all this, and the company said it had no comment.
If you want to get started with widgets that are offered, swipe right in iOS 10, then scroll down to the very bottom of the Search screen and look for the “Edit” button. That’s where you can enable any widgets offered by apps you have installed.
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