Google’s phone app no longer searches Google Maps

AI SaaS

The Google Phone's Play Store listing still touts Nearby Places as a major feature.
Enlarge / The Google Phone’s Play Store listing still touts Nearby Places as a major feature.

Google

9to5Google reports that Google has killed off the Google Phone app’s “nearby places” feature. Google announced the impending death of the feature in February, saying: “We’ve found only a very small number of people use this feature, and the vast majority of users go to Google Search or Maps when seeking business-related phone numbers.” Now it’s really dead.

The “Nearby Places” feature in the Google Phone app seemed like a useful and common-sense feature. It connected the power of Google Maps to the phone app, allowing the phone search bar to not only look through your contacts but also businesses listed in Google Maps. When you want to call the local pizza place, just type in the name, rather than some arcane string of numbers, and hit “dial.”

The feature has been around on Pixel phones since at least the Pixel 2 and has been generally available to anyone who downloaded the “Phone by Google” app in the Play Store for the past few years. It was a perfect “Google” feature, combining the company’s OS, breadth of online data, and search into a useful function. Google has made its AI-infused phone app a primary selling point of Pixel phones over the years, so stripping it of features is weird.

Google claims that the feature is being killed because it was used by a “very small number of people,” but it also might be shutting it down because it hasn’t worked reliably for a while now. It looks like Google broke the Nearby Places search around August 2023. Here’s a bug report from around that time with 100 comments, and there are several Reddit and Google forum posts out there. Even new phones were shipping with the feature disabled. One reason for Google’s apparent disinterest in the feature is that the phone app’s Nearby Places searches took traffic away from Google Maps. Maps shows ads in the search results, and the phone app didn’t.

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