At the end of last week, Yahoo! introduced an update to their iPhone application (iTunes URL) which now includes the ability to perform web searches using only your voice. This is the first real competitor to Google's Mobile App, whose voice recognition technology came to the iPhone back in November of 2008. Now the only question is how do these two apps compare?

About Yahoo! for the iPhone

If you're unfamiliar with Yahoo! for the iPhone, the first thing you should know is that it's a very different type of app than that from Google. Where the Google app's primary focus is on search, Yahoo's approach is to deliver a sort of "one-stop-shop" type of application. In fact, the Yahoo app could actually replace a handful of the iPhone applications currently cluttering up your homescreen. It provides a number of features including access to news, email (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, or AOL), social networks (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, and others), RSS feeds, sports scores, stock quotes, movie theater info, weather, blogs, an address book and calendar, Yahoo! Instant Messenger, and - oh yeah - web search too.

Google vs Yahoo!

When we reviewed the Google Mobile App last year, we were pleased to discover that it worked surprisingly well, especially if you're giving it typical search queries like "movie showtimes." Before testing out Yahoo's app, we again put Google through its paces and found that it only occasionally stumbled, usually when giving it specific proper names - like those of small, local restaurants that weren't national chains, for example. It also had trouble identifying a theater chain called "Muvico" - it delivered results for everything from "medicare" to "mini cab" no matter how clearly we spoke. That said, Google's voice recognition still did a decent enough job, if not perfect.

With Yahoo's app, getting a search started takes a few extra taps since you're first asked if the app can use your current location (tap). Next, you have to tap into the search box and then press a button to speak (tap, tap). When you're done speaking, you have to press the button yet again to signal the end of the query (tap). Alternately, you can press and hold the button and release it when you're done speaking. Either way, Google's app is much simpler - you just tap the voice search button and you're off.

Yahoo's search results, though, are a bit easier to read thanks to the larger font size used. For local results, the address, phone number (tap to call), and ratings are displayed just like with Google. However, where Google offers a link to "get directions" right from the search results, Yahoo goes for giving you nearby cross streets instead (e.g."between S. Bradford and S. Lincoln Ave"). You can also choose to see all the Yahoo results on a map, although this is less preferable to Google's expandable "view map" links which display each individual listing on a map that appears below the result just by clicking on a plus (+) sign.

If you scroll further down past the local results in the Yahoo app, there's a section called "Websites" which lists the relevant websites for your query. Past that is the "more results" section which lets you re-query other verticals like News, Photos and Images, Wikipedia, and Yahoo! Answers. At the very bottom, is an "Also try" section where you'll find related queries. This is similar to Google's layout which also starts with local results, then websites, and finally related queries. However, in Google's app, the results look more like what you would typically see if on your PC, but the Yahoo app breaks them up into more delineated sections.

As far as the actual voice recognition technology, Yahoo's app did a good job. It correctly understood all the same queries that we tried on Google and it even nailed the oddly difficult "Muvico" query without a hitch. We know that the Google app struggled with accents, but we haven't had a chance to test and see if Yahoo's app did any better with this issue (if you have an accent, give it a shot and let us know in the comments!).

Overall, Yahoo's app isn't too bad, even with the extra taps, but there are still a couple of ease-of-use features that will have us launching Google for our search queries. However, given the numerous other features in Yahoo's app, we might find ourselves using it quite a bit. And it will be nice to have access to this new voice recognition capability while we're there.

If you've tried both apps, let us know what you thought. Which do you prefer?