Google updates iPad app with Siri-like voice search

Nov 22, 2011
Tech

When Apple released the iPhone 4S in October, the device didn’t have much to set it apart from the iPhone 4 that Apple released a year before, except for one big feature: Siri. The voice-activated personal assistant software allows users to basically talk to their iPhone, in normal English, and have the device react in […]

When Apple released the iPhone 4S in October, the device didn’t have much to set it apart from the iPhone 4 that Apple released a year before, except for one big feature: Siri.

The voice-activated personal assistant software allows users to basically talk to their iPhone, in normal English, and have the device react in a number of different ways. Siri can search the Internet, access contacts and make phone calls and answer questions about a number of things using data gathered by different apps and technologies found within the iPhone 4S.

Siri is largely what is selling the iPhone 4S, since the phone itself isn’t much of an update from its predecessor. But Siri isn’t the only voice-activated game in town – in fact, Google has just worked in a voice search feature to its native iPad app that has some similar functionality to the much-lauded voice-activated assistant.

The newly updated Google Search for iPad actually seems comparable to what’s available to users of Google’s own Android mobile operating system, as Mashable points out. It contains a number of other interesting features, including a visual search history feature and a mobile version of Google Instant. On computer web browsers, Instant starts to fetch results even before the user has fully inputted the search terms by guessing what they’re looking for and providing educated guesses to fill in the remaining terms. On the iPad, you get the same fill-in options so you can start searching faster and type less.

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There’s something else that’s interesting about the new Google Search app for iPad, however: It includes a lot of core features that show up in Google’s Chrome operating system, which Google uses on its Chromebook netbook computers. As The Next Web reports, Google’s search app has features like multiple panes so you can be searching in one half of the app and pulling up things like your history in another, quickly and easily, and access to many of Google’s web apps through the app from one central location. While users aren’t getting quite the same experience with Google’s web apps for services like Photos, Gmail and Google Docs as they would if they were using iPad native apps, Google is still finding a way to get more of its products in front of iPad users, and its web apps are pretty solid.

According to The Next Web’s story, Google is slipping many of its most popular products onto the iPad along with an elegant, highly functional search app because Android is losing in the tablet market. The iPad continues to be the dominant tablet by a huge margin, and Android still hasn’t found a way to really compete. Google is rolling out Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich slowly, which will unify the operating system between smartphones and tablets, but ICS probably isn’t going to turn the tide even with its cool new features.

Meanwhile, iOS accounts for some two-thirds of Google mobile searches, as well as ad views. Even though it might be in a fairly bitter war for OS supremacy with Apple, Google still wants to take care of its iOS-using fans. Google Search for iPad does that, allowing Google to ride on Apple’s popularity, while dishing out more products and services on Apple’s system from which Apple has been trying to gain some distance. It’s a smart move from Google in one light, but on the other hand, such a highly functional search app is just another reason to seek out an iPad over an Android tablet.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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