Two months ago, when they first unveiled Google Instant, Google let everyone know that it would be coming to mobile devices this fall. Sure enough, it’s here, in beta form.
While the feature hit some Android devices about a week ago, today it has arrived for the iPhone as well. I’ve just loaded up google.com on my device and sure enough, right below the search box and location indicator, there’s an “Instant (beta) is on: Turn off” message. It’s sort of interesting that the feature is opt-out, even on mobile (Update below). Though I have to assume that if your connection is slow, they’ll revert to regular Google search just as they do in the browser itself.
So how does it work? Similar to it does in a regular web browser, but it’s a bit odd since the drop-down search suggestions take up a lot of screen real estate and so does the on-screen keyboard. You can still see the results being populated as you type, but barely (see below).
The other mildly annoying thing about Instant on the iPhone is that it once again is google.com-only (this was my main complaint about the desktop version as well, but they’re currently rolling it out baked into Chrome’s Omnibox). For most of my searches on the device, I use the Google search box built into the browser and that doesn’t have Instant. Obviously, even if Google wants to add it there, they’re going to need Apple’s approval. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that.
Update: Google has let me know that for the majority of users it is actually opt-in. They are testing it as opt-out with a small percentage of users and I was apparently in that test. I’ve updated the story as such.
Regarding the “hard to see” aspect, a Google spokesperson had this to say:
On a phone, the screen size is much more constrained than on desktop so the layout of the search predictions and results are different. We did reduce the number of predictions that show on screen to create more space for results, but we find that people like being able to quickly choose between predictions.