Google adds Now-style quick answers to mobile web results

The company is serving up some of its latest Android functionality to all smartphone and tablet users via the mobile web, by delivering 'cards' derived from its Knowledge Graph semantic search framework

Google has begun delivering some of the smart search functionality in Android Jelly Bean to all smartphone and tablet users.


Much as the Google Now feature in Jelly Bean tries to serve up quick, meaningful answers to basic questions such as "what is the time in Nairobi?", Google has now integrated the same feature into its mobile web search.

The move was announced on Thursday in a blog post by Google user experience designer Jeromy Henry.

"Today when you search on mobile or tablet, you’ll see some more improvements in the way we provide these quick answers, including better understanding what information you need and surfacing the most relevant information for you," Henry wrote.

"For example, in our flight status quick answer, we've included a flight progress indicator and increased the size of arrival and departure times so you can quickly see when your loved ones will be landing."

Henry noted that this functionality was only available in English-language search right now, and said the initial subjects that quick answers might cover were "finance, currency conversion, unit conversion, dictionary definitions, local time lookup, and holiday and sunrise times".

Google first tiptoed down this road on the desktop in May when it unveiled the Knowledge Graph , a new framework for search that tries to understand the meaning of the thing being searched for, rather than just treating it as a string of characters (I argued at the time that it was a step towards the fabled 'semantic web' ).

The desktop Knowledge Graph functionality started to be rolled out worldwide earlier this week, meaning it should arrive on all platforms around the same time for those outside the US.

The functionality is perhaps most useful on mobile, because it makes it much easier to change parameters rather than restart the search — and any cut-down on input time is a boon on mobile. For example, the unit conversion 'card' that Google's mobile search now produces allows the user to change the unit of measure without starting again.

However, one of the most interesting effects of the move may be in the way this functionality is being snuck onto Apple devices via the web.

Android's Google Now is not a direct equivalent to iOS's Siri, but it is a rival of sorts. Now iPhone and iPad users will get to compare some of the functionality of the two side-by-side.