Google has gone big with the changes in the latest version of its mobile search app for iOS, starting with full-screen searches and views for the iPhone. Other changes introduced in Google Search 2.0.0 Wednesday include speed improvements, an enhanced yet simplified user interface, and gesture tweaks for easy navigation.
Wednesday’s update marked the ongoing evolution of an app that’s been around as long as Apple’s App Store. What started out as a unified app for searching for websites, contacts, and businesses near your current location has added features like voice-activated searches and iPad compatibility. The 2.0.0 release puts the focus on enhancing the iPhone version. Here’s what to expect when you fire up the updated app.
When you launch Google Search, the app greets you with your User ID (if you’re signed in) and two shortcuts along the top of the screen—one to tweak settings and another to toggle between search results and the main app screen. Just below that, you’ll find the Google logo (sometimes depicted as the doodle of the day), a text entry area, and shortcuts to Google Apps, Voice, and Goggles.
To begin, enter a search term either by typing or selecting the Voice or Goggles shortcut. You’ll see the results list with the search text at the top, and a navigation bar along the bottom to filter the results.
For instance, Google Search gives you the option to view Everything (all results) or specific result types such as Images, Places, News, Shopping, Videos, Blogs, Discussions, and Books. However, as you begin to swipe down the list of results, this navigation bar along with the top text area disappears, revealing a clean, full-screen view of those results. Don’t worry: These UI elements re-appear once you swipe back to the top.
Of course, the whole point of doing a search is to view the results, and Google has made that a lot more fun and useful in version 2.0.0 of Google Search. When you select a result, such as a Web page, that page opens in a built-in browser that slides in from the right. To get back to the results, you just swipe that page back to the right. A tab along the top of the screen hints that the results lie just beneath, making that swipe an intuitive action.
The navigation bar along the bottom contains the expected Web browsing controls—back, forward, an icon that lets you share the page via email or open it in the native Safari app, and a final button that searches the Web page itself. Choosing this last option reveals a text box to enter the search text, along with buttons to navigate through the places where the text appears within the Web page. Each instance of the text is highlighted within the page.
As before, there’s more than one way to search with the Google Search app. You can type your search text via the on-screen keyboard, or you can select either the Google Voice or Google Goggles shortcut from the main screen. With Google Voice, you simply speak what you’re searching for into the iPhone mic, and the app will convert this to text, perform the search, and reveal the search results list all at once. Along the same lines, Google Goggles allows you to use the iPhone’s built-in camera. Simply choose the Goggles shortcut, take a picture of what you’re interested in—such as that fancy sports car in the parking lot—and the app will do its best to figure out what you just took a picture of.
There are two final items to note, both of which center on the newly added full-screen functionality in Google Search. Thanks to the app’s full-screen image preview feature, when you search for something and select Images on the bottom navigation bar, an array of image thumbnails appear. You can select one of those thumbnails to view that image in full-screen mode, and then simply pinch to go back to the thumbnails. You’re able to save images to your camera roll—a feature available in the iPad version of Google Search as well as on the iPhone.
Google’s mobile app has always tapped into Google’s other services, but that feature gets the full-screen treatment in this release as well. The main screen of the Search app has a shortcut that reveals all of the Google Apps in a full-screen list when selected. Selecting an app such as Gmail slides that app’s UI in from the right. As you would expect, swiping the app to the right brings you back to the full list of Google Apps. This works for all of the apps, such as Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Google+.