Checking the weather is a key function of every device from phones to Google Home to Smart Displays. On Android, Google Search has a rather excellent built-in weather experience that is well-designed and visually delightful. Unfortunately, Google Weather on Android and Google Search over the past few months has lost the ability to check air quality.
On Android phones and tablets, searching for the weather through the Google app will display a prominent card that notes the temperature and an hour-by-hour forecast that users can scroll through. Graphics are used throughout from the weather condition to the card’s background.
Tapping anywhere on the card to see “more details” loads a full-screen experience that includes humidity and UV index, as well as dedicated sections for Precipitation, Wind, and Sunrise & sunset.
Until recently, there was an Air quality report that clearly noted the Air Quality Index (AQI) value and the corresponding level of health concern — “Good,” “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” and more. There was also a clearly stated “Health Message,” like “It’s a great day to be active outside.”
Below the range meter, this section noted where this reading was “Measured” relative to your current location and when. This data and metric for the United States is provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Now.
This iteration of the Google Weather app — which users are prompted to pin as a homescreen icon for direct access — was launched in January 2016. It’s also accessible from the Pixel Launcher and “At a glance” widget.
Unfortunately, sometime over the past few weeks, the Air quality section was removed. This information used to also be available on the web as a Search card. A query like “air quality Toronto” was still yielding results as of June 2018. One user report pegs the disappearance of the built-in Search result to around late August.
Several governments around the world maintain their own air quality monitoring. Checking cities that should have their own national data did not yield any inline air quality results on Google Search or Google Weather. It appears that Google is no longer displaying air quality data from any country or source — be it third-party services or government agencies. A search for air quality will still provide links to other resources, but losing the built-in Google feature is unfortunate and inconvenient.
Over the weekend, the EPA in the U.S. has had issues with its Air Now site likely due to a redesign introduced in September. In response to “high demand,” the government agency brought back the old page over the past 24 hours. However, through the EPA’s site downtime, other weather clients — like the default app on iOS — that presumably rely on that data for the US have continued to provide air quality information.
To increase our capacity to provide air quality information in light of high demand, EPA is reviving our pre-September 2018 version of AirNow to supplement our redesigned website
Its absence is particularly noticeable this week in light of the fires in Northern and Southern California, which have an impact on the air quality of surrounding regions.
We are mobilizing to support those impacted by the #CampFire, #HillFire and #WoolseyFire with SOS Alerts, and committing resources from @googleorg to aid those in need. Our thoughts are with all those displaced by these fires.
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) November 9, 2018
We have reached out to Google on the status of air quality in Google Weather and Search. This post will be updated when we hear back.