iTunes link) finally arrived in the App Store this afternoon. The app now uses voice recognition to translate voice commands into search queries. The new version also gives you easy access to all your other Google apps, though the star of this update is obviously the voice recognition, which, in our tests, was amazingly accurate.Google's highly anticipated update of its Google Mobile App for the iPhone (
Note: the description in iTunes has not been updated yet, but if you follow this link, you can just download and install the new version.
It Actually Works
This new capability takes the Google Mobile App for the iPhone from a rather bland search application to a whole new level. Now, you can just say something like "sushi in Portland" or "movie showtimes" and the application will return a highly relevant set of results. In order to be useful, voice recognition has to be extremely accurate, and here, the new Google Mobile App delivers.
The app also makes use of the iPhone's built-in GPS and always returns local results together with the standard Google search results whenever these could be relevant. For us, this worked especially well when we searched for restaurants or stores.
Surprisingly, the app also did quite well when we search for relatively complex addresses, though it didn't automatically take us to Google Maps, which would have been really nice.
It also helps that Google has updated the way it displays search results in the app, with easy ways to get directions or call a restaurant directly from the app.
Interestingly, the apps seems to be doing the voice recognition on the phone itself. Most of Google's competitors first record a sound file, then send it to a server, and then return results. Doing the number crunching locally makes for a faster search experience, especially when using the EDGE network.
The only functionality that is missing is the ability to search your contacts and make phone calls directly from the app, but chances are that there are technical reasons for this (names tend to be a hard problem for voice recognition programs).
Easier Than Typing
Google, of course, already offers voice search through GOOG-411 (and Yahoo and other information providers offer similar services). Also, other iPhone applications like Say Where (iTunes link) already offer voice recognition (though our experience with that application was decisively mixed).
Overall, however, Google's iPhone application works better and faster than any of its competitors. Most voice recognition programs have some issues with unusual accents, and the Google Mobile App is no exception. However, when it works, it works extremely well and using it to search for information is actually easier and faster than having to type a query.