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Google Places Listings Get Integrated Into Android’s Phone App — And They’re Terrible
A big change in Android 4.4 is: those using Google’s new mobile operating system, nicknamed “KitKat,” can search for businesses right from within the Phone app. How’s it work? For me, it’s awful.
Google+ Invades The Android 4.4 “KitKat” Phone App: What It Means For Businesses & People is our separate article that explores the integration in general. In this article, I’ll share some examples of how business search works — and fails — in Android 4.4.
The Disappointing Local Results
First up, I want to find a nearby restaurant. Using the Phone app, I type in “restaurants” into the new integrated search box and get back results, as shown below on the left. What’s to complain about? The quality of the results, which are so bad. The screenshot on the right — from the completely separate Google Maps app — helps demonstrate this:
There’s so much wrong here. The phone app does manage to locate one restaurant that’s near my location in the city of Newport Beach, California. One. After that, it suggests another restaurant in Irvine, about 10 miles away. Then it suggests one in “nearby” San Francisco, which is about 300 miles away. After that, it suggests some phone number I didn’t recognize — in fact, one that I couldn’t even call, as it was too many digits.
The Google Maps example shows what I’d expect, if this integration was properly done. There, I get three restaurants that are actually from Newport Beach. By the way, it’s a similar list if I make such a request to Siri on the iPhone.
A search for “pizza” was also disappointing, as was “movies.” Listings I expected from actual “nearby” businesses didn’t show at all.
The situation wasn’t improved when I looked for particular businesses by name. For example, there are five different Regal cinemas near me. A search for “regal” brought up listings that were much further from me than any of these. A search for “regal cinemas” wasn’t any better:
None of cinemas listed by the phone app are near my home. The second listing is over 45 miles away. Google Maps, at least, lists the closest one that is near me, Island Cinema. It still manages to miss several other Regal locations closer to me than the next two on its list.
Poor Search Experience
It’s not just that the results are so bad. The experience sucks, too. Assuming you do find a business you want, there’s an excellent chance that if you’ve turned to the Phone app as a search tool, you’ll want to know more about that business before calling. And yet, the Phone app listings pretty much tell you nothing. There’s not even a picture of the business.
Consider the case of Pizzeria Mozza, which has a verified listing within Google+ Places, as you can see:
Rich, visual data. And it’s that type of data you get if you look up Pizzeria Mozza in Google Maps. Even Siri gives you access to a nice display:
Here’s the sparse experience in the Android 4.4 Phone app:
There’s no picture, no ratings, not even the phone number shown for businesses that are found through search in the Android 4.4 app. Nor does clicking on a listing reveal more information. Instead, it just initiates the call.
Skip Searching From The Phone App, For Now
Bottom line, there’s no plus to using the integrated search within the Android 4.4 phone app, that I can see. You’d be better off just using the Google Search app, or the Google Maps app, then clicking to call from links in the listings there.
As for marketers worried about how they appear in integrated search, for now, just make sure you have a Google Places listing. Beyond that, the results are so bad that there’s no sense trying to figure out what type of criteria may help you rise to the top. Whatever Google’s doing now clearly will have to change.