Google is testing a new feature on Android that lets users install apps from its search engine results without being routed through the Play Store, according to Android Police. The feature, which brings up a small permissions window and install button just as the Play Store does, appears only to work when searching through the Google app for some users and not through the Chrome browser. Google has for some time now displayed links to the Play Store on Android and to the iOS App Store on mobile Safari for iPhone users. However, this would mark the first time users can download and install an app without going through a mobile storefront.
It's unclear if the feature will become widespread and useable through mobile browsers like Chrome and Safari; Google did not respond to a request for comment. But if it does became a main feature, even if only for Android owners, it could bolster Google's efforts to keep its search engine relevant in a world increasingly dominated by mobile apps. After all, the company would very much like mobile users to spend as much time using Google as possible, even if it's for installing an app it doesn't make.