Google’s overwhelming presence on the web has not overlooked the iPhone platform. Almost as soon as the iPhone was released, Google put out several Apps to integrate their search features. Now, Google’s latest contribution to the iPhone has topped all their previous attempts. I give you Google Mobile with Voice Recognition [iTunes Link].
The new App is a completely different from the previous version, so let’s start afresh. The first screen you see upon opening the App is a brief instructional page about the voice recognition system. Simply place the phone to your ear and the App will “know it” because of the proximity sensors.
You’ll hear a short series of beeps and you can state your query. When you are done speaking, take the phone away from your ear and you’ll hear another series of beeps to indicate completion. A little sound wave diagram comes up on the screen (presumably the analysis of your speech, but it may be rotating clip art for all we know) and it processes for a while.
The longer your statement, the longer the processing time. Once it is complete you will be greeted with one of two screens. For general “Googlings,” you’ll see the search results in a layout very conducive to the iPhone’s screen. You’ll also have the option to change from Web to Images, Local, or News, all of which work about the same as they do on the regular webpage.
On the other hand, if your query sounded close to one or more of your contacts, Google will guess that you’re looking to quickly call one of your friends. The screen brings up all similar sounding contacts that match the voiceprint and you can choose to call them directly.
After you’ve used the search feature a few times your “home screen” for the App will (by default) populate with your previous searches. If you want to change this, you can go into the settings and point the home page to other parts of the App instead.
If you want to type in your answers like an old fogey (or someone who can’t pronounce Francisella tularensis in a way that a voice recognition program will understand – like me), the App offers “search as you type” that works just as well as the regular online version. It will also make suggestions if you have them turned on in the preferences.
Google never misses an opportunity to pimp their webapps, so the middle category button is completely dedicated to listing all of their Apps. Clicking any of them actually takes you to Safari, so the whole thing is kind of lame. It’s no different from having Home Screen bookmarks (actually it’s worse because it requires more clicks). That being said, if you remove all but a few of them from the screen (notice there is an “Edit” button in the upper right), it might come in a little more handy.
Lastly the settings give you fairly decent control over the types of things searched for and the level of “safety” in your searches. You can even tune the webapps to come up for your custom domain instead of the general Google account screen (if your domain has been tied to Google).
Overall, this is a great App and a fantastic upgrade from their rather mediocre first attempt. The voice recognition is about as good as it gets. If you have experience with this kind of technology you know that you shouldn’t expect a perfect result every time, but when you speak clearly and use words that it will have a prayer of deciphering, your odds are pretty good. By those standards the App performs admirably. If you disagree, please let us know!
Personally I think I will be using this App from time to time, but with Safari’s new, easier to use Google search box, it may be a case of Google making their service to easy to use that an App is just extra bells and whistles. Good luck Googlers!