Android 1.6 Gains Limited Universal Search Widget

The latest Android update, version 1.6, now includes a Quick Search Box widget. Like any other widget, you simply add it to a home panel so it’s always available, or you can hit the search hardware button on your device. Taking a cue from the iPhone OS and Palm’s webOS, the QSB is more of a universal search. Instead of having a search box web content and another search function for data on your device, Google combines the functionality into one place. You simply type or use the voice search feature with the widget. The QSB is capable of searching in four data areas: Apps, Contacts, Browser and Music. Hitting up Settings, Search, Searchable Items on your Android device allows you to configure which of these areas you want to enable for the QSB. Google says that the QSB will learn your search habits to offer suggestions and that third-party developers can leverage the QSB for their apps.

After using the feature for a while, I found it useful but limiting. For starters, you have to tap the widget or your keyboard search button to initiate the function. This holds true for the search feature on my iPhone 3GS as well — there’s a dedicated search screen — but I’m spoiled by my Palm Pre. With it, I can simply start typing to use the universal search feature. And Google’s Quick Search Box doesn’t search as much as I’d like it to. With the heavy Google service integration, for example, I’m surprised it doesn’t search my Gmail accounts or my Google Calendar events. Being the search leader, I would have expected to see Google include it in the QSB from the get go. Google currently calls the QSB a “system-wide search experience”, but it’s not quite there yet.Even with the limited data sets the Quick Search Box looks at, it’s handy to have on a home screen for basic needs. Hopefully, Google adds more searchable methods to the QSB in the near future, which would make it far more useful.


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