Google's digital phonebook in the Phone app is dying, but AI might replace it

Google Phone app logo
(Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has announced plans to remove a variety of features from Android, and the latest one is Nearby Places.
  • Nearby Places in the Phone by Google app allows users to search the name of a business right in the app, bypassing Google Search or Maps. 
  • Google says the feature wasn't used by many and that going forward, Google Search and Maps will be the way to find business numbers.

Google is known for killing off products, services, and features often, but recent months have been particularly tough for Android users. In January, the company announced that Google Assistant would lose 17 features. Now, the Phone by Google app is the latest casualty, with the Nearby Places feature set to be removed "in the coming months."

The changes were announced by Google in the community forums for the Phone app, as spotted by 9to5Google. "We've found only a very small number of people use this feature, and the vast majority of users go to Google Search or Maps when seeking business-related phone numbers," the post said. "Those experiences also provide richer results and contact info for those businesses."

If you aren't familiar with Nearby Places, the feature essentially works like a digital phonebook. You can search the names of businesses in the Phone app and discover phone numbers for those businesses without having them in your contacts. It's partly location-based, pulling the numbers of local shops and restaurants automatically. 

Using the Nearby Places feature instead of using Google Search and Maps can save users a few seconds. However, as Google itself notes, the latter options are typically more accurate. Furthermore, Google's official guidance for people who use Nearby Places is to switch to Google Search and Maps instead.

The feature is being removed so that Google can add better features to the Phone app, at least according to the company. New features powered by artificial intelligence may come to the Phone app this year. 

"We're sunsetting this feature so that our team can focus on building the highest quality, most reliable, and most innovative experiences in phone calling," Google said in the post. 

Google highlighted some of the AI-based features it has shipped for the Phone app, including Call Screen, Hold For Me, and Direct My Call. Google says there's "a lot more planned for 2024."

We can only assume that Google's comments allude to more AI features coming to the Phone app at some point this year. 

The company's explanation for removing Nearby Places is the same one it used for removing 17 features from Google Assistant. In that instance, it said that the features were "underutilized." This time, it said that only a small number of users took advantage of Nearby Places.

The feature removals also come as Google continues company-wide layoffs

Brady Snyder

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.