Google Voice Search: not just web search but Contacts too


News broke last week that Google would be adding voice search capabilities to the iPhone and the app is now appearing in the iTunes AppStore. I gave it a download earlier this morning but want to clarify one bit. The application isn’t a standalone app that solely provides voice search capabilities. You’ll want to download the Google Mobile App, which is the suite of Google Apps that includes: Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Talk, Reader, GOOG-411, News, Notebook, Photos, orkut, Translate, Maps, YouTube, and Google Earth.

I tested around a dozen voice searches with the app and came away pretty impressed in terms of usage and accuracy.

There’s no need to press a button to initiate the voice search asthe app can be configured to use the iPhone’s motion sensor to initiatelistening. It’s the same sensor that turns the display off when you’reon a call so that you don’t accidentally disconnect a call using yourcheek. You just hold up the phone and once the motion sensor detectsyour face, you’ll hear a beep. Speak your search and that’s it.Although I think the use of the motion sensor is clever, you do have tohave the application running… which means that in a sense, you dohave to press a button to get things going.

GooglevoicesearchRegardless of that limitation, it’s a great implementation of voicesearch. I usually search for our site as a test simply because"jkontherun" isn’t a common word and voice engines usally turn it intosomething funky like "salmon run" or "chickamuaga" for some reason.Google’s voice search didn’t fare all that much better until I sloweddown my speech ever so slightly. When I did that, it returned "jk onthe run" in the search box and of course returned the proper searchresults.

Once a search is returned, you can interact with the results as you would normally. If you press the little magnifying glass icon next to the search term, you get options for where to search: iPhone and Web, Maps, Images, News, Shopping, and Wikipedia.

The iPhone and Web option caught my attention simply because it’s not just "Web". It looks like there is or will be some way to search your iPhone for data. In fact, in the configuration settings under Searchable Items, I see an option for Contacts, but I never received any contact results when searching for someone by name. At first, I though that Contacts refers to Google Contacts and not local iPhone contacts, but Google says that it’s searching your address book. I take that to mean my local address book.

Since a voice search didn’t work for any contacts, I began to type "James Kendrick". The app’s auto-suggest started to populate results with contacts on my phone and even shows an icon to tell me that these are contact results and not web results.


All in all, pretty nifty and if you allow the app to use yourlocation, it provides localized search results when it can using the My Location feature. Note thatin the settings you can turn screen rotation on, but it’s set to off bydefault. Setting it to an "on" position disables the motion sensingused for voice search. Google has made this to be slick and effective tool. And it’s free.

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