During last year’s Google I/O developer conference, Google announced that it would allow Android and iOS users to erase the last 15 minutes of their search history with the click of a button. This will help users keep their recent search queries private. last July, Google rolled out the feature for iOS users first (and we have an interesting theory about why iOS got it first which we’ll cover later in this article).
Android users were told at the time that they would receive this new capability by the end of last year. Google must have more pressing matters to work on because it’s rolling out now to Android users even though it’s not yet available for all Android phones (including the writer’s Pixel 6 Pro running Android 12).
Google is now offering Android users the search feature it gave iOS users back in July
Google spokesman Ned Adrians said The Verge, “We are currently launching this feature on the Google Android app and expect it to be available to everyone who uses the app in the next few weeks. We are continuing to explore ways to bring this useful feature to other surfaces.”
What does the feature look like on iOS
To see if your Android phone has this feature, open the Google app and tap on the profile picture in the top right corner. Under “Search History,” you’ll see an option that says, “Delete the last 15 minutes.” Click that and any search history accumulated over the last 15 minutes will disappear like a charm.
Google gives search users an option to automatically delete search history from 3, 18 or 36 months ago, and this is available on both iOS and Android for now. To enable this feature, open the Google app, tap the profile picture in the upper right corner, and then tap Search history. From the Search History screen, you’ll see a bar that shows the trash and clock icons and reads “Auto-delete (off)”.
Android and iOS users can automatically delete search history from 3, 18 or 36 months ago
Click the auto-delete bar and you’ll see an option to auto-delete activity that is more than 18 months old. Tap the button to enable auto-delete, then tap the gray box directly below it to choose how long you want your search history to be automatically deleted. Like we said, you can choose from 3, 18 or 36 months.
Unless you’re the type of person who likes to dig deep into the app and system menus, you probably never knew you had that capability on your phone.
Why did Google give iOS users the first hack on this feature? This is a theory
Earlier in this story, we alluded to a theory about why Google first gave iOS users the ability to quickly remove the last 15 minutes of search history. As you may have suspected, the answer is about money. Most of you already know that Google pays Apple is a huge amount annually to make Google Search the default search engine on iPhone.
According to analysts working for Bernstein Securities, Google paid Apple $15 billion to ensure that Google Search was preinstalled on iPhone users as the only search engine on the device last year. Since Google isn’t running out of money, we can assume that putting search on the iPhone generated more than $15 billion in ad revenue in 2021 (if that’s how much Google is actually paying Apple).
To keep the black ink flowing, we imagine Google will bend over backwards to make Apple happy that unhappy Apple might be tempted to build its own search engine for iOS (that have been reported in the past). Or Apple could decide to give the business to Microsoft making Bing the default browser on the iPhone.
Either way, Google has an incentive to push iOS users first for any improvements to the search app which may be the reason why Android users now have the ability to delete the last 15 minutes of their search history after 8+ months of iOS users.