Why did Google wait 8 months to add a new Search feature to Android after iOS got it first?
During the Google I/O Developer Conference last year, Google announced that it would allow Android and iOS users to erase the last 15 minutes of their search histories with the tap of a button. This would help users keep their most recent search requests private. Last July, Google rolled out the feature to iOS users first (and we have an interesting theory about why iOS got it first which we take up later in this article).
Android users were told back then that they would be receiving this new capability by the end of last year. Google must have had more pressing matters to work on because it is just now rolling out to Android users although it has yet to be made available for all Android handsets (including this writer's Pixel 6 Pro running Android 12).
Google is just now giving Android users a feature for Search that it gave iOS users last July
Google spokesman Ned Adriance told The Verge, "We’re currently rolling this feature out on the Google app for Android and expect it to be available to everyone using the app in the next few weeks. We’re continuing to explore ways to bring this helpful feature to other surfaces."
What the feature looks like on iOS
To see whether your Android phone has been endowed with this feature, open the Google app and tap the profile picture in the upper right corner. Underneath "Search history" you should see an option that says, "Delete last 15 minutes." Tap that and any search history accumulated over the last 15 minutes will disappear like magic.
Google does give Search users an option to automatically delete search history going back 3, 18, or 36 months and this is available on both iOS and Android right now. To enable that feature, open the Google app, tap the profile picture in the upper right corner, and tap on Search history. From the Search history screen, you will see a bar that shows icons of a trash can and a clock and reads "Auto-delete (Off).
Android and iOS users can automatically delete search history going back 3, 18, or 36 months
Tap the Auto-delete bar and you will see an option to Auto-delete activity older than 18 months. Press the button to enable the Auto-delete and then tap on the gray box directly underneath to choose how far back you want your search history deleted automatically. As we said, you can choose from 3, 18, or 36 months.
Unless you're the type that likes to take deep dives into app and system menus, you might have never known that you had this capability on your handset.
Why did Google give iOS users first crack at this feature? Here's a theory
Earlier in this story, we hinted at a theory as to why Google first gave iOS users the ability to quickly remove the last 15 minutes of their search history. And as you might have suspected, the answer has to do with money. Most of you already know that Google pays Apple a princely sum each year to make Google Search the default search engine on the iPhone.
According to analysts working for Bernstein Securities, Google paid Apple $15 billion to guarantee that iPhone users had Google Search pre-installed as the only search engine on the device last year. Since Google is not in business to lose money, we can assume that having Search placed on the iPhone resulted in advertising profits of more than $15 billion in 2021 (if that is indeed the amount that Google is paying to Apple).
To keep the black ink flowing, we'd imagine that Google would bend over backward to make Apple happy since an unhappy Apple might be tempted to build its own search engine for iOS (which has been rumored in the past). Or Apple could decide to give the business to Microsoft which would make Bing the default browser on the iPhone.
Either way, Google has an incentive to push out to iOS users first any enhancements to the Search app which could be why Android users are just now getting the ability to delete the last 15 minutes of their search histories more than 8 months after iOS users.