I’m big fan of Google. I use almost all their web apps and the ones I don’t use probably are geographically locked — but that’s on the web. On the mobile, it’s a totally different story altogether. From Google Reader to Calendar and Docs, all my favorite apps on the web don’t have a native iOS app.
But they’ve all been present in the Android Market for a long time now. Then there are native iOS version of apps like Gmail that blows. The Google Search app for iOS has been around forever. While not as horrible as the Gmail app, it wasn’t mind blowing either — up until now. Follow me after the fold to learn how the new version of Google Search has made me a believer.
The user interface of the Google Search 2.0 is a clear indicator that all hope is not lost. The app is extremely minimal and polished to the core. Predictably, the search field is smack in the middle of the app, and icons representing all that it can do are sprinkled at the top and the bottom elegantly.
There are three ways you can search for stuff using the app. The first one is obviously the good old Google search that requires you to type in the search box. As you start typing, the screen relegates itself into just a box at the top, making room for the search results. Auto suggestions start showing up as soon as you start typing and when you tap return, the results are displayed.
The search results, like always, are accurate and displayed in the now familiar web-based interface. To see more results, scroll all the way to the end of the screen and select the next page.
On the other hand, if you are looking to search for the same keyword but for different file types, use the options at the lower end of the screen. These options hover beneath the results all the time and Google has taken pains to include all of their search options. From images to places and discussions, you can the choose type of search instantly and get access to accurate results.
I tried switching to image search and was impressed by the clean organization of results in the page. In addition to seeing the preview of images, you have the options to download and share them as well.
Using Voice Search
To use voice search, tap on the microphone icon in the launch screen of the app. Just say the keywords and the results will be presented to you in no time at all. The search was as fast as the traditional one and the app was able to identify keywords even when there was significant background noise.
Google Goggles is amazing. Simply take a snap of an object and the app will give you more information about it. The process was downright simple and the app perfectly identified the MacBook Pro I snapped.
The snapped image can be used to search two different databases — products and images. The product search results weren’t exactly very accurate. Instead of listing results about the MacBook Pro, I got listings for a palm rest and other trivial accessories. Yes, they are relevant too, but there is no reason for those results to be at the top.
The similar images results on the other hand were very accurate and it included all the relevant links to the home page and reviews.
In addition to search, Google has done a great job coming up with some really cool web apps. Some have native iOS apps in the app store, while some are exclusive to the web. From the apps section, the Google Search app lets you access both types from a single place.
Web apps are all enclosed in a single tab and seeing all those gorgeous icons in one screen made me jealous of the Android ecosystem. But once you sign in, the pixel-perfect design and navigation of the web app interface will blow your mind.
The interface design reminds me a bit of Chrome, but has a serious limitation in the form of lack of tabs. Only one app can be accessed at a time and it’s very intriguing why a useful functionality like multiple tabs didn’t make the cut.
If you click on the icons from the native apps tab, one of two things will happen. If you have already installed the app, it will be launched for you. Alternatively, you will be redirected to the app store to download it.
Overall, team Google has done a splendid job. From a clean interface to thoughtful inclusion of features, they have ensured that users spend as much time as possible in the app. To a large extent, you don’t have to leave to get all your Internet chores done. However, there are a couple of quirks.
One thing that irritated me a lot was that there is no way to get a previous search keyword cleared. You can delete the previous keyword to enter a new one, but until the next time you enter a search, the old keyword will stay glued to the search box. Why not let the user clear it to keep the app tidy?
The Gmail app virtually was the last nail in the coffin. If it weren’t for this review, I might not have downloaded the app in the first place. However, I’m glad I did and I’m pretty sure you will feel the same way too!