It is a rare occurrence when a piece of consumer electronics can transform and redefine itself to change our expectations of what it can do for us. The iPhone has somehow been able to do this a few times now, and interestingly enough it has done it all through software updates and not hardware changes. The most notable example of this variety of transformation in the iPhone's short history, is in the release of firmware 1.1.3, which all of a sudden gave the iPhone gps-like locating functionality. Today marks another transformational point, and this advancement comes not from Apple directly but from their friends over at Google. As most readers already know, Google has their own 3rd party search application on the iPhone. It is called the Google Mobile App and has been available in the App Store for some time now. The Google Mobile App quickly created a buzz because it was created and designed by proven minds, like Nicholas Jitkoff (the creator of Quicksilver). However until the latest update, this application fueled a very unconvincing argument that it provided more utility than simply launching safari and typing a Google search. That all changes today with version 0.3.142 of the Google Mobile App and its new Voice Search feature. To put it very simply, the Voice Search feature allows users to speak rather than type their google searches. And to the shock of anyone who uses this feature for the first time, it actually works! Check out the video or try it yourself, and your experience should differ very little, if at all. Now, there may be some debate over whether this new Voice Search feature is truly an improvement of utility or rather just a new aid for the lazy. That is irrelevant because there is little doubt that this feature will revolutionize the way people use their iPhone. Anyone who has spent some time using an iPhone can relate to brevity of most iPhone application use cases. The time period of these use cases are shorter than the time a patron looks at an individual painting at a museum when they have 5 minutes before it closes. Voice searches fit right into this model. I myself have often been too "lazy" to launch safari, type in a google search and press that big blue "Google" button. To reinforce the level of ease, the new Google Mobile App uses the iPhone's accelerometer to know when you began and ended your Voice Search. Not a single button click is required after you launch the application to complete a google search. It is for this reason Google’s app has moved from my last page of applications right to my bottom dock. These types of interactions, which other 3rd party developers have attempted, but never really seem to work, leave most thinking, "what was the point of that." The Google Mobile App, however, is a very fluid experience and it just works. In many ways, one could describe the new Google Mobile App using dialogue from one of those "wouldn't it be cool if my iphone could" conversations. The crazy thing is that the new Google Mobile App actually does it. If you have an iPhone try it out now, you won't be disappointed...
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by AJ Craig
November 18, 2008