Google appears to be testing a new feature with its Google Now smart assistant on Android phones that displays recommendations from local discovery app Foursquare, even without the app installed. The test displays Foursquare-sourced tips for good places to buy coffee or, say, grab sushi in nearby areas as you maneuver a city, according to a report from VentureBeat today. It's seems available for only a small subset of Android users, the report adds, and it's also unclear whether the feature is currently restricted to the San Francisco Bay Area.
If the two companies have entered into a partnership, it would mark a positive upswing for a Silicon Valley relationship that has soured in recent years. Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley sold his previous project, Dodgeball, to Google in 2005 and the search giant shuttered it four years later. Foursquare dropped Google Maps as its navigation backbone in 2012 in favor of OpenStreetMaps, and Google has competed on restaurant recommendations through its ownership of Zagat. Foursquare ultimately returned to Google's service for Android handsets, but it still opts to use Apple Maps for its iOS app, VentureBeat notes.
Foursquare is reorienting its business around selling data
As growth has stalled, Foursquare is reorienting its business around selling the troves of data its collected thus far from the more than 60 million monthly users to larger tech companies like Twitter and Microsoft. Google would make an natural addition to the growing list. The more interesting aspect of the test, however, is Google's willingness to display these tips as cards within Google Now when Foursquare isn't installed. This experiment would mark the first instance of Google Now showing preferential treatment for a piece of software even when users haven't displayed interest in using that product. When reached for comment, a Google spokesperson told The Verge, "We're always experimenting with new features across Search and Google Now."