Google said on Monday that users in the U.S. on both iOS and Android are now able to star and bookmark images that they come across in mobile search — and then easily find them again later.
The company is trying to solve the problem of users having to screenshot or download images directly to their smartphone’s storage. It thinks a better solution is to simply store all those favorites in the Google cloud and serve them up to users on demand through a bookmarking system that works very much the way standard web page bookmarks do.
“Let’s say you’re searching for ‘bob hairstyles’ on Google and an image catches your eye,” Google software engineer Diego Accame wrote in a blog posting. “Simply select it and tap the star. Next time you’re at the stylist, you can easily access the picture without having to dig around or do another search.”
A new small rectangular card with “view saved” and a star icon on it now floats in the bottom right-hand corner of the image search page. Clicking on it brings you into a page with two menus up top: Saved Images and Collections.
“Once you’ve starred a few images, you can keep them organized in folders: to add an image to a folder of similar items, tap the pencil shaped edit icon. Create a grouping such as ‘haircuts for the winter’ or ‘snowman ideas’ and your image will be added to a folder with similar ones,” Accame added.
The catch, of course, is that for now the feature’s only available in the U.S. — possibly as a test bed to see if it gains traction there.
But it strikes me that this may could eventually help make search more efficient for users in emerging markets like India, where most cheap Android devices still ship with low internal storage but have access to Wi-Fi and increasingly affordable data packages.
Not having to store favorite images from Google search on a smartphone’s internal storage would actually make a lot of sense from the perspective of users in some of those markets.
To that end, Google also announced Monday that its new data saver mode in Chrome for Android will now save up to 70 percent of data when loading mobile web pages (up from 50 percent) — and will initially be available in India and Indonesia before rolling out to other markets.
But Google is still an advertising beast, after all. If it can understand which images from particular searches are being the most starred and added to collections, that could help it better make sense of all that big data on the back end. Clicking on an image for a few seconds is one thing. Starring it and adding it to a collection represents a whole other level of engagement.