Google has just launched a new feature for mobile devices — namely the iPhone and Android — that lets you use Google Search to quickly find native applications from the App Store and Android Market. You don’t have to do anything to activate the feature: just run a Google query like “shazam app” or “download yelp” from your phone, and Google will place a special result at the top that links directly to the application in the App Store or Android Market, depending which platform you’re browsing from. The result also shows the app’s star rating and a link to other applications relevant to your query.
It’s certainly a handy feature, but it’s a little inconsistent — a query for “shazam app” worked as expected, displaying a link to the application as well as its star rating and price. But a query for “yelp app” didn’t activate the feature (though “download yelp” did work).
At this point it’s not entirely clear how Google is determining which application to display. I found that the somewhat generic query “basketball app” yielded “Pro Basketball Scores”, a popular free application for Android with over 1000 reviews. Oddly, this is not the top result when you type “basketball” or “basketball app” into Android Market directly, which probably means that Google search is using a different algorithm.
It will be interesting to see if Google tries to do more with this, especially given how weak the search feature built into the App Store is. Apple controls the content on the App Store (descriptions, photos, etc.) so Google probably can’t do anything with that, but perhaps it could use its own data (for example, the number of times people have run queries for a given app title) to serve up more relevant results.