Google Instant Previews Go Mobile, Are Handier Than Ever

Android may be the first thing you think of when you hear the words “Google” and “mobile”, but the search giant has also been putting a lot of work into improving its web apps — especially search. In November it launched Google Instant for mobile devices, and today it’s introducing a feature that may be even more useful: instant previews.

Run a query on from your smartphone, and you should see a tiny magnifying glass next to each search result. Tap it, and you’ll see a nifty thumbnail preview of the site, allowing you to get a good idea about its contents without having to fully load the page (which can be time-consuming on mobile data connections). You can also swipe between thumbnails of the other top matches. Google has offered visual previews of sites for several months on the desktop version of its search engine, but I find them much handier on mobile.

In my limited testing the feature has worked well over a 3G network. The first two thumbnail results are appearing almost instantly, and while swiping to later results occasionally leads to blank squares, they fill in within a few seconds. My only gripe: the magnifying glass you have to tap to activate the feature seems unnecessarily small (fortunately it looks like the hit target is actually bigger than the icon).