Google Mobile App

When I found out that Google had created a native iPhone app, my first thought was “Wait, didn’t they make that awesome suite of web apps already? What do they need a native app for?” When I decided to have a look at the Google Mobile App, I found out that it serves a completely different purpose. It’s is not for Gmail, Calendar, Docs, etc. It’s a search application, but it’s surprisingly versitile.

The Google Mobile App is a search that simultaneously searches the web and your phone contacts at the same time, by default. It also searches while you type, so you can find what you’re looking for even faster. It also displays suggested searches in the form of buttons below the search results that you can tap on. Web results open in Safari.

If you tap on the small spyglass button on the left of the search bar, it pulls up a page that lets you toggle from searching the iPhone and web to Google’s Local search, images, news, shopping, or Wikipedia.

Back on the main screen, there’s a large button over the keyboard labeled “Explore more Google products”. Tapping this opens a screen that gives you access to all the standard Google apps and services that open up in Safari, including Gmail, Calendar, Docs, the Google Talk web app, Google411, Maps, News, Notebook, Photos (Picasa), Google Reader, YouTube (which opens in Safari and still doesn’t work), iGoogle, and Blogger.

In the top right on the main screen is an information button (a lowercase ‘i‘), which opens the settings. Here you can turn on or off the ability to search Contacts, Previous Searches, or Websites. You can also toggle Suggestions and Safe Search, or clear the history. Below that is a ‘Help and Discussion’ button that takes you to the ‘Google Mobile App’ Google Group in Safari, a button that opens a page with the Terms of Service for the app, and their Privacy Policy.

Pros: It’s useful, and surprisingly more feature-rich than just throwing together the standard web services (although a native version of Google Docs might not be bad). It easily lets you search more than just Google, including Wikipedia, which is a major plus for me.

Cons:It takes one or two extra taps to switch between what I want to search (for me, the two big ones are web+phone contacts and Wikipedia). The keyboard on the search screen never retracts, so you can’t really view more than a couple results at a time. It’s also still a little redundant with the built-in Google search feature in Safari.

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