Google and Android OEMs have a penchant for randomly rolling out updates and new features to small subsets of users for testing, some of which have wound up being disasters. Normally, this comes not terribly long before an official rollout. That said, if you use Google’s search app, Google Now or Google Now Launcher, you may have noticed some new additions to your search bar when clicking on it. There are two new Google features on a limited pilot roll out; “What’s Hot” and “Nearby”. The new features are currently on a limited server-side rollout for A/B testing.
A Nexus 6P owner dubbed tyler_shaw24 took to Reddit to report that he had spotted the new features after taking the latest security OTA from Google. Many users in the comment thread report that they have not received such features. Thus far, reports on the internet of the new feature are extremely sparse, so there’s no way to tell if the rollout is completely random or if there are certain criteria that earmark some users and not others. The new features seem to be targeted at increased integration and engagement for search. The “What’s Hot” feature shows off a list of recent search trends, allowing users to see what’s popular and jump on the bandwagon. The results pop up where you would normally see your own search history rather than in a separate app or screen. “Nearby”, meanwhile, shows points of interest on Google Maps, such as shops, restaurants and public parks, that are fairly close to your location, popping up over your search history in the same fashion as “What’s Hot”.
Nobody seemed to ask tyler_shaw24 if there were options to turn the features on or off or where those may be, though it’s assumed such settings would reside in your Google Search app settings. The “What’s Hot” feature seems targeted at increasing search engagement by turning search users into a community of sorts, as well as letting users see what the internet at large has taken an interest in. “Nearby”, meanwhile, may be used in the future in sponsored deals with physical establishments, though for now it’s just a useful tool for finding things to do nearby without having to think of anything specific.