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Just when you thought Google had done it all, the search giant debuts yet another information-rich feature. In August, Google unveiled plans for a purchase history and shipment tracking service, and just a few weeks ago, it was implemented. With the holiday season around the corner, this new service could potentially simplify your life — assuming the concept doesn't totally freak you out.
Gmail users who are logged in to their account can head over to Google.com and search (or ask) the keywords "When will my package arrive?" or "My purchases," and even "When is my flight?" Google will then prowl your inbox to yield a summary of recent orders, shipping information, and upcoming flight details.
Since this new service sees Google using a public tool to display private information, your knee-jerk reaction might be one of squeamish hesitation. However, Google won't display these results to anyone but you. The first time you ask Google something, you'll be prompted with a message that reads: "You have info about a recent purchase in Gmail. Only you can see these results." After accepting the terms, you'll see personalized results listed above regular Google search results. This private section will include pertinent information about all recent purchases, most notably the expected delivery times for orders.
While this new private search feature is interesting, it might not seem entirely necessary to a shopper when that information is already neatly organized in their inbox. However, Google's service does do away with that extra step of leaving your inbox and plugging in a tracking number elsewhere to discover an order's shipping status. The real value of the service thus comes in removing that extra step for many purchases.
Now a shopper can view in a centralized location the status of several orders, at a glance. This will most obviously be helpful during the Black Friday and holiday season when many online shoppers will have multiple orders in transit, each with critical delivery deadlines.
We decided to test out the new service and discovered that, while it does effectively showcase recent purchases, there are some bugs and caveats. One of our staffers only saw Google Play purchases in her results (which is fairly useless considering that's an immediate transaction with no delivery wait time), while Google omitted the physical order that was in transit at the time. Meanwhile, it appears that Google will only display the 10 most recent purchases, which might be annoying for avid online shoppers — or for people who buy a lot of music on Google Play.
That said, the inclusion of private search results can be a handy tool if you're an organized, online shopper (which, as a DealNews reader, we know you are). Readers, are you excited about this personalized service? If you've tried it already, what do you love or hate about it? Let us know in the comments below.