It should be clear by now that there’s much more at play in Android 4.4 KitKat than some early reports alluded to, and one of the more interesting (to me, anyway) tidbits managed to escape the early leak treatment.
Tucked away toward the tail-end of Google’s Nexus 5/KitKat presentation was a mention of a feature called App Indexing that should get companies (and the Android app developers that work for them) a little worked up. That’s because Google has developed a way to deep-link to the contents of an app from within a user’s Google search results with a feature it calls App Indexing.
Here’s how it works. Say you’re using the Google Search app to dig up some dirt on that Ender’s Game movie that doesn’t look very good. If you happen to have the IMDb app installed on your device while you search, you’ll be treated to an info card in that results stream that includes an “Open in app” button. Give it a quick tap and the IMDb app will spring to life and immediately direct you to its Ender’s Game listing.
Naturally, the feature isn’t just limited to showing off movie details — so far the full list of supporters includes Allthecooks, AllTrails, Beautylish, Etsy, Expedia, Flixster, Healthtap, IMDb, Moviefone, Newegg (yes!), OpenTable, and Trulia.
The way Google sees it, the move is all about providing these companies with a choice. If they think their mobile interfaces are enough to keep users engaged, they can simple go about their business. But if they already have an Android app (or are in the process of building one) that can do a better job of engaging with its users, a little extra work to implement those deep links may be well worth it.
It’s not hard to look at this as a move to bolster Android app development, either. There’s little doubting that Android is a global force — which may be only compounded by the fact that Android 4.4 KitKat may drive device sales in developing markets by bringing a more advanced feature set to cheap hardware — and in many cases the Google Search app is going along for the ride. That means that with any luck, huge swaths of the global Android community will be searching for stuff using the Google search app and seeing those deep-linked “Open in app” buttons when they’ve got the right apps installed. Tell me that’s not a compelling reason for a company to develop an Android app if they haven’t already.
Despite the buy-in from all those app partners, it’ll be some time before users like me will actually start getting those results in the wild. Google is testing the feature with those previously listed partners, but the updated cards that will display that information won’t actually roll out until some time in November.