Appiphilia: Review of Google finding its voice on iPhone application
The upgrade is out! The Google Mobile app (free), which was released in late August, just got a makeover. In addition to offering search of iPhone contacts, one-touch access to Google services (such as Gmail, Docs and Translate) and predictive type, now it is offering voice search.
The interface is more simple and sensible across the bottom: There are three buttons, for search, apps and settings.
You can set up the start screen to go to the last feature used or directly to apps, search or search with keyboard -- whichever you use most. The app can be set up to look in contacts, previous searches and the Web. You can toggle these on or off. The screen rotation can also be turned off, but that would disable the motion sensing.
And that brings us to the most exciting new feature of the app: voice search.
After several tests, I can say that voice search is a decent and useful offering. You put the phone up to your ear, you hear a blip, you speak, it blips again and, voila, it converts what you said into a search query.
(For those prone to searching while prone: the feature seems to work better if you are in an upright position. Although the phone itself recognized being placed close to my ear while I was lying down, the voice features didn't launch until I sat up.)
Another option is simply tapping the microphone icon in the top right corner of the screen.
The voice recognition is fairly accurate. Most simple searches turned up ...
... the right results and did so rather quickly with Wi-Fi.
It may have some initial trouble with accents. When I busted out my authentic Jamaican accent and asked for "reggae marathon," Google called up "Birmingham marathon." On my second try, with a bit more enunciation, it figured out what I meant.
Of course, some words that aren't pronounced the way they are spelled, such as names, might be harder to get a correct hit on. While "Yorba Linda fire" came up without a hitch, "Sayre fire" netted results from "hair fire" to "clear wire." The same with some proper names. I ego-Googled and got "Michelle Malkin" instead of "Michelle Maltais" every time.
Close but no cigar. It might just be easier to type in those situations -- but that can be hit or miss as well.
The predictive type is useful. It offers suggestions of potential searches on the Web and in your contacts. (It's a bit easier for less dainty fingers to navigate.) If you select a contact card, you can see the info and choose to e-mail, call or text that person.
In terms of the rest, the Google Mobile app also launches other online offerings, logging you in with no muss or fuss if you have a Google account set up, and the Google Earth app if you have the app loaded. If you don't, it will send you to the App Store to download it.
Although we users are still basking in the glow of the honeymoon phase, Google Mobile looks to promise a successful marriage of the iPhone's best attributes (motion-sensing accelerometer, voice and Web) and Google search.
-- Michelle Maltais
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