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Google treads on Siri's ground with new iOS Search app

Google treads on Siri's ground with new iOS Search app


It's not Google Now, but it's still a big step forward

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Google search iOS
Google search iOS

While it has certainly been longer than a "couple of days," Google's updated Search app for iOS is finally available in the App Store. Just as we saw back in August at Google's search-focused event, the new app uses Google's frankly excellent voice-recognition software and location-based awareness to provide iOS users with a search experience similar to what you'd see on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Upon trying the app out, we were rather shocked at how well it performs — over both Wi-Fi and cellular data, the app captures your speech extremely quickly and with a high degree of accuracy. For the most part, the app doesn't try and answer your questions through natural speech like Siri does, but it can bring up search results related to your query with a surprising degree of speed. In fact, it appears to bring up search results significantly faster than using Siri for the same query — though we've only done a limited bit of testing thus far. Of course, Google's app doesn't have the same access to phone-level services that Siri does, but for straight search it seems like the superior option.

Voice recognition was both extremely fast and highly accurate

While the majority of searches will simply bring up a list of results, there is a bit of Google Now-style functoinality in the app. Asking Google what the weather is like brings up a similar card-style interface to what you'll see on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and it also is able to speak the current weather conditions in a voice that is quite a bit more human-sounding than Siri. It can read you back sports scores, flight info, stock quotes, language translations — seemingly anything you ask that is part of Google's "knowledge graph" will give you a more dynamic and useful search result.

Google Search for iOS screenshots


Unsurprisingly, Google's Search app is well-integrated with both YouTube and Maps. Asking the app to "show me videos of Maru the cat" automatically launched a relevant video on YouTube right in the app, while asking "how far is it from here to New York City" gave me the correct distance, and a tap opened up the route in Google Maps (in the browser, naturally).

Siri has some serious competition

Unsurprisingly, the app also includes support for the iPhone 5's larger display, and is optimized for the iPad as well. While Apple's stance on not allowing users to change default applications means that Siri might still be more convenient for some users, it now has some serious competition. Given that Google's apps have been hit or miss on iOS in the past, we're quite pleased to see that this latest offering is extremely polished. For fans of Google, its new Search app offers a fantastic combination of speed and excellent voice recognition, combined with Google's vast stores of information. It's a compelling combo, and it's available to download now.

Thanks, TopSon!