Dolphin Browser adds Sonar: Useful voice search

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Voice search on mobiles is becoming all the rage, and the folks behind the popular Dolphin Browser are adding more voice functionality in their latest version. Dolphin Sonar is part of the 7.4 release of Dolphin Browser for Android, making it easy to search the web, share links or open specific web apps and pages by speaking.

Here’s a short promo video on the new Sonar feature that’s clearly taking a fun shot at Apple’s Siri functionality, which launched with the iPhone 4S last October.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD3EN48gwhY]

As a regular user of the Dolphin Browser — here are eight reasons why — I like the concept of integrated voice actions to use the web. Dolphin has long supported gestures to help navigate the Internet, and the new Sonar feature extends the usefulness of the browser. I’ve been using Sonar for the past day and generally like where the Dolphin team is headed.

You can tap your keyboard microphone button to use Sonar, but I’m a fan of the keyboard-less option: simply shake your handset, and Dolphin Sonar is ready to listen. Obviously, you have to have the browser open when shaking the phone; this functionality isn’t integrated into the operating system.

Most of the time, Sonar simply searches Google for what you need. However, if you want to open a specific website, you can do so through speech. And that’s handy for certain web apps. For example, using Sonar, I could say, “Open weather dot com,” and the mobile site opens immediately, complete with my local forecast. Note that I had previously used the website, so it knew my location. If not, the browser wouldn’t know where I was. Saying “eBay iPad 2″ took me right to the eBay mobile site-results for iPad 2.

I wasn’t able to test the link sharing in Facebook feature as it’s not quite live yet. The concept is great, and I hope the Dolphin folks can extend that functionality to other web services such as Twitter and Google+. All in all, I like what I see in Dolphin Sonar. Some may find it limited, but it’s the type of service that can scale to allow for more functionality in the future as our phones become intelligent assistants.

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