Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our 100th post -- What about MY phone?

We don't always say this, but thank you for reading the Google mobile blog.

When we launched last year, we realized that we needed to better communicate what the Google mobile team was up to. Since then, we've been working hard to provide you with timely and useful information. We've also sought to keep our posts personal and engaging by introducing you to the Googlers behind our products, incorporating video, and enabling comments.

While we're thrilled that our readership has continued to grow, we want to make the mobile blog even more useful and interesting to you in 2009. We invite you to tell us how we can improve. What else do you want to see on the mobile blog? Are our posts too long or too short? What phones do you most want to read about? Please fill out this quick survey to let us know what you think.

In celebration of our 100th post, we're going to attempt to address one of the blog's most frequent comments: "What about MY phone?" This comment always seems to be tinged with such angst and passion. Trust us, as users we know your pain. But we also know the difficulty of developing software for disparate phones.

We've put together a video that gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of our "Sky Lab" that contains over 800 phones for developing, demonstrating, and testing purposes. Although we have so many phones, we currently can't make all of our products work on all of these phones -- we face the same challenges that every developer faces in the mobile industry: we have to choose. So this video also reveals two very different approaches for choosing devices in this industry... If you have any better ideas, let us know!

Of course, if you've been following our blog you may have noticed some patterns. We do like phones with good browsers and flat-rate data plans. Stay tuned to the Google mobile blog for more on this in the new year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Track Santa with Google Maps for mobile!

Santa's making his list, the Elves are working around the clock, the sleigh is being prepped - Christmas is almost here! As they have since 1955, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) will be tracking Santa's journey this Christmas, and Google will again enable you to follow his trip in Google Maps, Google Earth, on YouTube, and with the NORAD Tracks Santa iGoogle Gadget. This year, we're happy to announce that you can keep tabs on Santa with Google Maps for mobile. Now, no matter where you are, you can track Santa and his Reindeer, directly from your mobile device.

Getting started is easy, just open Google Maps for mobile, and search maps for 'norad santa'. Once the tracking begins, you will be flown to Santa's most current location, according to NORAD radar. Try it out on your T-Mobile G1, iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia S60, or Windows Mobile smartphone. Note that you'll have to re-issue your query to see Santa's updated location.

For the moment, Santa is in his home at the North Pole, but after he takes off, his whereabouts will be updated every few minutes as he zips around, delivering his gifts. By the way, if you need an excuse to end a conversation with that relative that is trying to make up for not calling you in 15 years, this may come in handy - "Sorry, I'm going to have to let you go - I need to find out where Santa is!"

Santa doesn't take off until 12/24 at 3:00am PT, but there is plenty to learn about NORAD Tracks Santa between now and then at www.noradsanta.org. The video below has a few highlights from last year's trip - enjoy and happy holidays from the mobile team!

Posted by Bruno Bowden, Software Engineer

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays from the Google Mobile Team!

We hope you have a safe and happy (and mobile!) holiday season. To wrap things up, here are some final holiday Mobile Tricks

Ted Smolsen shows how he does last-minute shopping using Google Docs and Google Maps for mobile...

George shows how he keeps in touch with far-off relatives with a cameraphone, Picasa Webalbums, and a WiFi-enabled picture frame

and after your holiday meal, try ChangChangYall's Full-O-lator to understand what your relatives are saying.

From the Google Mobile team, search for recipes on your phone, use mobile YouTube to keep antsy kids at the dinner table, and remember to search for local times to wish your far-off friends a happy new year. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Optimized search results pages for Android and iPhone

Whether you're using Google search through the search widget on the Android home screen, the built-in search box of the iPhone's Safari browser, or google.com on either device, you'll now end up with search results optimized for your phone. In some situations, you've already been seeing the new search results pages. Now, all Google search options for Android and iPhone lead to results that load faster and are formatted to fit the screen so you don't have to zoom or scroll side-to-side. We've also added touchscreen-friendly buttons and expandable maps for local business results.

The optimized search results pages are currently available in U.S. English for Android and for iPhone and iPod touch devices with firmware 2.x. If you prefer, you can always view desktop search result pages by selecting the "Classic" link at the bottom of any page.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The gift of Mobile Tricks

'Tis the season of giving... and we've got Mobile Tricks to help you navigate your way through it.

Terrence Diggle checks out new watch styles....

momola90404 shows off a whole new twist on a mobile headset...

and pizzazzery finds a friend in the mall.

And from the Google Mobile team, check out tips on seeing stores before you get there, and checking store stock. Remember to send us your video tips and tricks through the Mobile Tricks YouTube channel! We'll continue posting our favorites to this blog.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Your Maps in Your Hands for the Holidays

Just in time for the holidays I'm proud to present to you My Maps Editor by Google, now available for download in Android Market! In just four months of my 20% time and with a little help from the 20% time of my coworkers this application has gone from an idea in my head to a full application ready for you, really demonstrating the ease and power of developing on Android.

With this application you can create, edit, share, and view personalized maps on your Android powered phone synchronized with the My Maps tab on Google Maps. Create a map on your desktop computer using Google Maps and then take it with you on the go and update it on location. My Maps Editor by Google supports full editing functionality for markers, lines, and shapes on maps, plus the ability to mark your location using GPS or attach a photo directly from your phone. Your maps are automatically synchronized with your My Maps on the web. Check out this tour of Google Mountain View that I just created on my phone:

There are plenty of ways to put this to good use during the holiday season:
  • Plan out your holiday shopping. Create a map on your computer with markers for all of the stores you need to visit. Color code the markers according to importance, category, or sales. Then as you visit each store, change the icon to indicate that you've been there and list what items you were able to get in the description. If you find a store you didn't think of, you can quickly add a marker for it to help future planning.
  • Make a map of holiday decorations and displays that you see. Every time you see an interesting holiday display, use the Mark My Location feature to create a marker, then edit the details and add a photo of the display right from the phone's camera. Share your map with your friends and family to show them the best holiday displays in your area. Just go to the maps list, tap and hold on your map, and select Share Map to share it right from your phone.
  • Keep track of your travels. You can map out your travel plans and take them with you wherever you go. Add markers while you travel to mark interesting places, and take lots of pictures and attach them to the markers. Then when you get back, you can share the map with your friends and show everyone what your did on your vacation with a map and pictures to help them really visualize the trip.
The fun doesn't stop once the holidays are over. The possibilities are endless when your maps are in the palm of your hand (try making a map of running routes to keep yourself to your New Years resolution!). Don't take my word for it, go download My Maps Editor by Google from Android Market (currently available on the T-Mobile G1) and see for yourself!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Street View on Nokia S60 and Windows Mobile? Check.

(cross posted with the Google LatLong Blog)

In case you hadn't noticed, the Google Street View team has been busy photographing France, Italy, Spain, and Australia. Given the international focus of recent Street View launches, it's time we make Street View accessible on phones that are especially popular in those countries. We're excited to announce the availability of Google Maps for mobile version 2.3 with Street View on Nokia S60 and Windows Mobile. Street View was previously released on Google Maps for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone.

Street View lets you access street level imagery to help orient yourself when looking for places, businesses, or getting directions. Say you're going to meet with friends at an unfamiliar restaurant. Now you can search for it in Google Maps for mobile, click on "Street View", and see what the place and surrounding area look like. Similarly, say you need to get to a shop in a part of town you don't know. Find it using your phone, get directions to it, and see how to get there with full-screen panorama images of every step along the way.

While Street View is not yet available everywhere, we'll continue rolling out support across other geographies in the coming months.

Check out this demo of Street View (albeit on a BlackBerry) to get an idea of how things work:

Besides Street View, the new version of Google Maps for mobile also has a bunch of other new features: request walking directions (in addition to driving and public transit) to get anywhere on foot, receive transit alerts from participating public transportation authorities, and see what other people think of a place by reading reviews directly on your phone. We've also overhauled the entire user interface to make the app more responsive and easier to use.

So if you have a Nokia S60 or Windows Mobile smartphone, go ahead and download the new version of Google Maps by visiting google.com/gmm on your phone. Enjoy the (street) view!

by Flavio Lerda, Software Engineer

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mobile Tricks... Holiday Edition!

You've seen our useful Mobile Tips for the holiday season... now how about some fun Tricks? Mobile Tricks, our YouTube channel celebrating all things cellular, has dressed up for the holidays with some new themed videos. How do you use your phone to get through the season? Show us in a video, and submit it on our channel. We'll post some of our favorites in this blog each week. Here are a few videos to start spreading the holiday cheer. It appears Santa is pretty handy with his phone!

And as before, we got together to give some tricks of our own, from looking up store hours without needing to type, to tracking packages. We're sure you do even more interesting, fun things though, so show us!

Monday, December 8, 2008

New AdWords options for iPhone and G1

Today, the Google mobile ads team is announcing a new campaign-level option that allows those of you who are AdWords advertisers to show your desktop text and image ads on the iPhone, the T-Mobile G1, and other mobile devices with full (HTML) Internet browsers. The ads can point to desktop landing pages so you don't need to create mobile landing pages or ads in mobile formats. The ads will have many of the same benefits as our standard mobile ads, such as the delivery of mobile-specific calls-to-action and reaching mobile users that are searching with their phones more than ever -- especially during the holiday season.

You may have seen ads running on the iPhone and G1 already. That's because Google Search on these devices used to show desktop results pages modified for these phones. Recently, the Google mobile team launched new results pages formatted specifically for the iPhone. Now, advertisers will be able to display ads exclusively on these mobile devices, create campaigns for them, and get separate performance reporting. If you prefer not to show your desktop ads on these phones, you can opt out and show ads only on desktop and laptop computers.

To target ads for G1 and iPhone, go to your campaign settings tab in your AdWords account. Then for the "Device Platform" option under "Networks and Bidding," select "iPhones and other mobile devices with full internet browsers." As additional devices that use full browsers enter the market, your ads will show on those phones, too. You can visit the AdWords Help Center for more detailed instructions and watch my video below for a quick demo. If you currently have an AdWords campaign running, by default your campaign will show ads on desktop and laptop computers, as well as iPhone and G1.

Note that if you're currently running our mobile ads, this new option for desktop ads does not affect your campaign. You can still create mobile ads that show up on other mobile devices like before. For a refresher on our mobile ad formats, check out my past posts on the Google mobile blog and past videos on the mobile blog YouTube channel.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Count down to 2009 with Google Mobile Tips

Whether you're shopping or traveling, entertaining or keeping in touch, let Google mobile make your life a little easier this holiday season with Google Mobile Tips.

From now through January 1, 2009, we'll post one new tip each day on our Google Mobile Tips microsite. You can also view the tips on your phone by simply entering your phone number on the microsite and clicking "Send". You'll receive an SMS text message with a link that leads to a tip on a mobile web page.

Today's tip is on voice search. Many of you may know that we recently launched Google Mobile App for the iPhone with voice search. However, did you know that you can tap the green highlighted text in the search bar to see alternative predictions of what you've spoken? If the voice recognition for a query is close but not perfect, try tapping this text to see if your desired query is in the list. If it is, then just tap the list item to see your search results. Voice search can come in handy when you're looking for that perfect gift -- whatever that may be.

Make life even easier by taking a look at this countdown to 2009 for tips about other Google products like Product Search, Checkout, Maps, and more. There's even a gadget that you can add to your iGoogle page -- read more on the Official Google Blog.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Got Questions? Try the new Google Mobile Help Forum

We know that with many Google products launching on an array of mobile devices, you're bound to have questions. And with all your experience using those products and devices, you're also likely to have some knowledge to share. Even though we've tried to make our help center as up to date as possible, you'll likely have even more questions that we haven't addressed yet. We can't talk to everyone -- there are millions of you! -- but we've been working hard to provide you with better ways to express your views and discuss our products. To that end, we're very excited to invite you to a housewarming party as our help community moves from Google Groups to a brand new platform: the Google Mobile Help Forum.

The new platform was built from scratch to offer you some exciting new features:
  • Q&A format to help you find answers quickly
  • Improved search and integration with the Google Mobile Help Center
  • Better spam detection and prevention
  • Public recognition of Top Contributors and frequent posters (with more posting privileges as you make your way up)
  • Ability to subscribe to ask questions and receive answers via email
Naturally, we're pumped for the move. We've got a dynamic system of levels to reward your contributions, and a profile that you can personalize. You can subscribe to the forum (or to individual discussions) by RSS feed. You can even vote on which responses answer the question best and mark a best answer to a question you asked.

The new forum is just one step in our quest to build better products and connect you with one another, so stay tuned for more. As part of this transition, we'll archive the current Google Help Group, as well as the Google Mobile Community. We hope you'll use the Forum not just when you need help, but also to share your enthusiasm and give tips and tricks to the whole mobile community. So stop by to introduce youself, and stay to ask and answer a few questions.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Google Maps for iPhone adds Street View, public transit, and walking directions

(cross posted with the Google LatLong Blog)

I waited in line on launch day to buy my first-generation iPhone, and ever since then it has never left my side. The best part is that it keeps getting more useful with every software upgrade Apple puts out. This time around, Apple has improved their version of Google Maps by putting even more Google features in your pocket.

The most eye-catching one is Street View: Apple's silky-smooth implementation makes it a joy to pan around the world. You might wonder why you'd want to look at panoramas of the world while you're already out in it, but I've found it handy for getting an idea of what to look for when going somewhere new. In somewhere like New York, it's also a great way to get your bearings when you pop out of a subway station in an unfamiliar part of town.

Speaking of subways, my favorite new feature is the addition of Google Transit and walking directions. In a time of congested roads and fluctuating gas prices, driving isn't always the best way to get from A to B, so why limit your options? Now when you get directions, you can switch between driving, walking, and public transportation directions (where available) with a single tap.

Google Maps has schedules for transportation systems in more than 100 cities worldwide, including New York, Tokyo, Montréal, Zürich, and Perth — and now it's easy to get that information on your iPhone. As more transportation agencies decide to share their schedule information, their routes will be available on the iPhone the instant they appear in Google Maps on the web.

Finally, in the latest version of Google Maps for iPhone, you can email information about a location to your friends, which can be a great help when coordinating a get-together.

To get these new Maps features on your iPhone, you'll need to update your phone's software through iTunes. I hope you'll find these new additions as useful as I have. And don't forget that even if you don't have an iPhone, Google Maps for mobile is available for many other kinds of phones, including BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian Series 60, and Android — visit www.google.com/gmm for more details.

by Joe Hughes, Mobile Maps Software Engineer

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Google Sync for BlackBerry: Now with contacts

You asked for it, so here it is. We're happy to announce that in the latest update to Google Sync for BlackBerry, we've added two-way contacts synchronization. This new functionality will enable you to sync your handheld's built-in address book with your Gmail contacts. This all happens in the background and over the air, so your information is always up to date, no matter where you are or what you're doing.

Once you've installed Sync, all your information will be safe in your Google account. If you ever lose your phone or buy a new one, getting your address book and calendar to your new device is as easy as installing Sync. Current and new Google Sync users can try Google Sync today by visiting m.google.com/sync from their BlackBerry browser.

Posted by Marcus Foster, Product Manager, Google Mobile

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Google Mobile App for iPhone now with Voice Search and My Location

The new Google Mobile App for iPhone makes it possible for you to do a Google web search using only your voice. Just hold the phone to your ear, wait for the beep, and say what you're looking for. That's it. Just talk. Once the App is on, you don't have to push any buttons to search. Check out the video below to watch engineer Mike LeBeau explain how this works.

After you speak your query, Google Mobile App will return search results formatted for your iPhone.

And if you're doing a local search, there's no need to specify where you are because Google Mobile App now has Search with My Location. Search for "movie showtimes" or "Mediterranean restaurant" and you'll automatically see results based on your current location. For this to work, Location Services must be enabled on your iPhone and you have to opt-in to let Google Mobile App use your location.

To get the latest Google Mobile App for iPhone or iPod touch, go to the App Store and look for "Google Mobile App." Note that the voice search feature is currently available only in U.S. English and for the iPhone. Read more about other features of Google Mobile App.

Watch this video to see what Googlers from Chicago, London, New York, and Mountain View are searching for. Then consider sharing your most interesting voice search query by submitting a video response.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Google Search results pages for iPhone

Starting today in the U.S., when you go to google.com on your iPhone and do a search, you'll see search results that are better optimized for your phone. You'll still get the full comprehensiveness and quality of regular Google Search results, but laid out in a more efficient and user-friendly arrangement.

Results are formatted to be neatly displayed on the mobile screen, so there's no need to scroll side to side. Local search results now include easier-to-press "Get Directions" and click-to-call links. Maps are shown by default in the case of a single listing or accessible by the "Show map" link for multiple listings. For those of you wanting to access the classic desktop search results format, it's only a click away, with the "Classic" link near the bottom of each page.

For now, the newly formatted results pages are available only in U.S. English and for iPhone and iPod touch firmware version 2.x. Over time, we intend to make the newly formatted results pages available through other search entry points on the iPhone, on additional devices, and in more language and country combinations.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Updates to Google Maps for mobile for enterprises

We recently released new installation packages for Google Maps for mobile in enterprises. These new packages allow IT managers to make Google Maps for mobile, with new features such as Street View and transit directions, available to corporate BlackBerry users.

While this blog tends to focus on consumer applications of Google Mobile products, many of our products are used by business people to find information essential to their jobs. Perhaps you use a BlackBerry issued by your company. If you do, hopefully you search the web with Google and get directions using Google Maps. Your BlackBerry is likely administered by IT managers who whitelist what software you can install on the device. In many cases, IT managers haven't whitelisted Google Maps for mobile or other Google Mobile applications.

If you are an IT manager, visit http://mobile.google.com/enterprise to learn how to give your staff Google Mobile applications. The new installation packages allow you to place the Maps for mobile binaries on an internal server, or push the application to your employees via BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

If you don't manage information technology at your company, consider asking your IT department to deploy Google Maps and Web Search on all the company phones.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On Mobile and Elections

It's election day! Once you've found where to vote and made your voice count, you'll probably want to see how the rest of the nation's vote is shaping up. Now, on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or T-Mobile G1, Google News for Mobile has a summary of the popular and electoral votes, updated every few minutes. For all phones, the Elections section on Google News for Mobile (just go to http://www.google.com/m/news?topic=el on your mobile phone) can keep you updated on today's stories on the go. 

It's very exciting to see the role of mobile in an election. The Obama campaign famously unveiled the Democratic VP nomination via SMS. Nonpartisan groups such as Rock the Vote are sending 
SMS election updates to their subscribers. News organizations are more aware than ever that they need a mobile site so their stories are directly available to their readers on all platforms. Mobile phones have been making an impact internationally as well. In Senegal, for example, the increasing prevalence of mobile devices has reduced the opportunity for election fraud. Locals were able to spread district voting results before they bubbled up for the final national count because of mobile connectivity.  Officials at the highest levels were thus unable to manipulate the national figures. So tell us... how are you using your phone this election day?

Posted by Effie Seiberg, Mobile Citizen

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Voting tools for volunteers on the go

With the U.S. elections less than a week away, voting drives are ramping up. Political parties and non-partisan groups alike are sending out volunteers to encourage citizens to vote on November 4. To make sure these volunteers have the same voter info tools available to them on their phone as on their computer, we've now launched a mobile voting locator tool on m.google.com/elections. (Click here to send this to your phone.)
Now, volunteers can type in the home address of any registered voter and find his or her voting location, whether they're in an office making phone calls, are working from a booth set up outdoors, or are going door to door. While on the go, they use Google Maps for mobile to find their next address or display directions to voting locations.
Of course, between talking to potential voters, volunteers can check out the Elections section in Google News for mobile for the latest updates (go here on your phone), or just search for a nearby coffee shop to stay warm.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Google Earth now available for the iPhone

(cross posted with the Google LatLong Blog)

The world just got a little bit smaller. Google Earth is now available for the iPhone and iPod touch, allowing you to fly to the far reaches of the world from the palm of your hand. Since we launched Google Earth for the desktop in 2005, we've had over 400 million unique downloads, and people from around the world have used it to view their house, research travel destinations, learn how to make the world a better place, find local businesses, and view geo-located photos. Now, with a free download from the iTunes App Store, you can fly through the same 3D immersive world of Google Earth you've come to love, without having to fire up your desktop computer.

Check out this video tour to see Google Earth for the iPhone in action:

Not only is having Google Earth on your iPhone convenient, but the touch interface is a very natural way to interact with the Earth. Just swipe your finger across the screen and you fly to the other side of the globe; tilt your phone and your view tilts as well. You can pinch to zoom in or out, or just double tap with one finger to zoom in and two fingers to zoom out. We also integrated the My Location feature, so with a touch of a button, you can fly to where you are in the real world on your phone. In addition, we have over eight million Panoramio photos, which are geo-located photos of places, and you can view any and all of them from your iPhone. Besides being beautiful, high-quality pictures, they're specifically of places, so you don't have to see some guy's family on vacation in Thailand--you can see the beaches, the temples, all the things that give you a real sense of the place. Here is a nice shot of the Grand Palace that I found on my virtual tour of Bangkok.

All versions of Earth include search, and the iPhone version is no exception. You have access to the same great local search that you get with Google Maps, so you can search for places, businesses, and landmarks. With Google Earth you get to the full detail page for businesses, so you can get reviews, photos, user content, business hours, and other useful information. We also added a "search near me" feature, so with one touch you can find businesses near your location, without having to navigate there first or type in the name of the city. Looking for a good cafe when you're in Trento, Italy? It's a snap:

To get Google Earth on your iPhone, visit the App Store in iTunes or your iPhone, and search for "Google Earth."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Introducing Gmail for mobile 2.0

As an engineer on the Gmail for mobile team, I use the Gmail client on my mobile phone all the time. Because of this, I'm always looking for ways to make it faster, more robust and easier to use. Today, we're thrilled to introduce Gmail for mobile version 2.0 for J2ME-supported and BlackBerry phones. Our focus for this version was to make the experience faster and more reliable. We rearchitected the entire client to push all the processing to the background, greatly improve the client-side caching scheme and optimize every bottleneck piece of code we came across.

So, what does this all mean for you?
  • Overall performance improvement: You should experience significant raw speed improvement, smoother scrolling, and no freezing.
  • Multiple accounts management: If you have both a Gmail and Google Apps email account, you can easily switch between them quickly. You will no longer have to use two different mobile apps to access personal and work emails.
  • Multiple mobile email drafts: You can save multiple email drafts in your mobile phone, so that you can pick and choose what you would like to send later.
  • Powerful shortcut keys: If you have a QWERTY phone, you can use shortcut keys. Hit 'z' to undo, 'k' to go to a newer conversation, and 'j' to go to an older conversation. See Menu/Help in the app for more shortcuts.
  • Basic offline support: Can't get a signal? Not a problem. You can compose and read your most recent emails even when there is no signal. Also, any outgoing messages will be saved in the outbox on your phone and sent automatically when you're back in coverage.
Also, Gmail for mobile 2.0 is available in over 35 languages now. Please note, though, that not all features are available for all phones.

Go to m.google.com/mail in your mobile browser to download the new Gmail for mobile for your phone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Location now with Wi-Fi

One of our goals here on the location team is to keep shrinking that magical blue circle that shows you where you are. In fact, just a few weeks ago, we released new optimizations for My Location that helped us calculate location even more accurately.

Today, we're taking another step toward that goal, with the release of My Location with Wi-Fi, which will provide even greater accuracy when you use a device with Wi-Fi. The premise is similar to what we do with cell tower information: information transmitted by nearby Wi-Fi access points is used to pinpoint your location. Since the range of a Wi-Fi access point is smaller than that of a cell phone tower, this often results in a much more accurate position.

Wi-Fi-based location is available in many major cities around the world, but coverage and accuracy will vary. We expect it to improve over time as more people use it.

So how can you start enjoying this Wi-Fi goodness? If you have a Wi-Fi enabled BlackBerry, please download the latest version of Google Maps for mobile. Maps for other mobile platforms, including Android, will get Wi-Fi location soon.

Wi-Fi-based location is also now available through the Gears Geolocation API, bringing more-accurate location information to the browser on your phone or laptop, including Search with My Location.

Enjoy the smaller circles!

Adel Youssef and Arunesh Mishra, Software Engineers, Google mobile team

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Google on Android: Gmail and Contacts

On September 23, T-Mobile announced the world's first Android-powered phone, the G1. The phone comes preloaded with Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. The applications are easy to use, fully synchronized with the web, and work together in new and innovative ways, as explained in our first post in the blog series: 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will put the spotlight on each one of the Google applications for Android. Today: Gmail and Contacts. -- Marc Vanlerberghe, Product Marketing Director.

As an engineer on mobile, part of my job includes testing multiple phones. Having to add and update contacts whenever I get a new phone is one of my least favorite things to do. Switching phones is such a hassle in no small part because manually adding my friends' contact information takes so much time.

In the early days of developing Gmail and Contacts for Android, the team set a clear goal to make this problem disappear once and for all. We envisioned a world where your various computers and phones would always be in sync without needing discipline, USB cables, Bluetooth, and synchronization software.

It occurred to us that the best way to synchronize these various pieces of information is to let the device do it on its own while you're not looking, so you never have to think about it. Once you've logged into your Google account on an Android-powered phone it automatically synchronizes all your contacts and Gmail information so everything is always available, regardless of where you are and whether you have cell coverage. Since all your contacts and mail are backed up to the network, they will still be available if you get a new phone or just have multiple phones.

You will also find that Gmail on Android preserves all the nice functionality that you are used to on your desktop, such as starring, archiving, assigning and reading labels, and the conversation view that makes reading email on Gmail so pleasant. You can also configure which labels you want to synchronize to your phone and how much data you want there. More than ever, you are in control of the data that you want to find on your phone. Gmail even syncs your drafts so you can begin a message on the phone and send it from the web, or vice versa. With push email, Gmail offers real-time, two-way synchronization of your email, notifying you of new e-mails even when you're using another application.

Of course, your contacts list in Gmail also syncs to the phone, and any changes you make on the phone sync to your contacts list on the web.

Because this synchronization works in both directions, you can add a contact on the web and almost immediately use it to call the person from your phone. Once you get used to automatic synchronization, you'll wonder how you could ever live without it. We certainly became addicted to it, and we hope you will too!

To learn more about Gmail on the world's first Android-powered phone, visit the Gmail blog

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Google on Android: YouTube

On September 23, T-Mobile announced the world's first Android-powered phone, the G1. The phone comes preloaded with Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. The applications are easy to use, fully synchronized with the web, and work together in new and innovative ways, as explained in our first post in the blog series: 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will put the spotlight on each one of the Google applications for Android. Today: YouTube. -- Marc Vanlerberghe, Product Marketing Director.

Whether it's the infectious laughter of "Dad at the Comedy Barn" or Randy Pausch's uplifting "Last Lecture," YouTube on Android can bring news and entertainment to you in an immediate, personalized way. Let me tell you about my favorite YouTube features and how I use them.

I walk into the local coffee shop to get a dose of caffeine -- double espresso is my drink of choice. The Formula 1 race in Singapore was two weekends ago, the first night race F1 has ever held. I wonder if there are some highlights on YouTube. I slide open the keyboard and type "Formula 1 Singapore" and sure enough, there's a video with some footage from the first practice session. The cars look fantastic under the lights. I wonder if my friend Ken has seen this video. I click on the "Menu" button, select "Share," and up pops the email application - I know Ken will appreciate the video as much as I do.

When the video is done playing, a bunch of related videos pop up.

This is great because I can simply choose from any of them to see more F1 racing footage. This feature makes it easier to find more videos that interest me.

While I am busy watching the F1 video, my wife emails me a link to a YouTube video of the San Jose Taiko company. She's a big fan of taiko drumming and is asking if I want to go with her to the concert on Sunday. I tap the link in the email message and watch the video. Wow, I can't wait to see the concert. I hit the back button to take me back to the email conversation and reply to my wife, "Yes -- let's go!"

In addition to the tight integration with Gmail and other applications that are already on the device, I find it really cool that YouTube on Android exposes its search functionality to other Android apps through the open application framework, giving applications like the built-in music player the power to quickly find relevant videos. All I have to do is long-press on the artist, song name, or album to do a search on YouTube for a related video. I'm really looking forward to seeing how developers will integrate YouTube features into their own applications.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Google on Android: Maps

On September 23, T-Mobile announced the world's first Android-powered phone, the G1. The phone comes preloaded with Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. The applications are easy to use, fully synchronized with the web, and work together in new and innovative ways, as explained in our first post in the blog series: 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will put the spotlight on each one of the Google applications for Android. Today: Maps. -- Marc Vanlerberghe, Product Marketing Director.

When we designed Google Maps for the T-Mobile G1, we set out to create a great mapping application that took full advantage of the G1's hardware, like the touch screen, accelerometer, and GPS, as well as the deep system integration made possible by the Android platform.

One of my favorite things to do with Google Maps on Android is to explore new and favorite places. You can pan around and zoom in and out easily using just your thumb on the touchscreen -- a big plus for all those times when that other hand is unavailable. And if I want to see a restaurant or building up close, I can switch to Street View and view a panorama from street level. I can even turn on Compass mode to let me look around the panorama by moving my phone up, down, and to the side. It's like popping up a virtual periscope anywhere you want to check out what's there with your own eyes. Check out the video below for a quick demo. Note that Street View on Android is only available in the US at this time.

When I'm in a new city or just a new part of town, I like to turn on My Location. It can use GPS or just the nearest cell tower to tell me where I am and re-center my position in the middle of my screen when I approach the edge. When I'm walking or in a taxi in a dense city, like New York, I zoom in to street level and turn on GPS for the highest accuracy.

And as I wander the city, I can search for nearby businesses (like restaurants), and use Android's integrated Map features to save search results to my contacts. For instance, if I find a restaurant that I like, I can save it to my contacts and then later on call it or Map it with one touch. In the future, when I do another search with Maps, I might even see this contact again as a suggested search result along side past queries.

Maps is also integrated with email, IM, and the web on Android. For instance, street addresses that appear as plain text in these apps become touchable zones that you can click on to take you straight to Maps. Something similar happens when a Google Maps link is pasted into an email, IM or placed on a web page. When I touch it, I can choose whether to view the map in the browser, in Google Maps, or in any other application that's built to handle what's known to Android developers as an "intent." Or, I can make the choice once and save it as my default map-viewing application (Google Maps, in my case).

Perhaps best of all is that most of the resources, flexibility, and functionality in Google Maps are available to any application written for Android. Cab4me and Locale are both Android Developer Challenge winners that used the Android platform to build compelling applications with maps and location at their core. Any developer can use Android's MapView and location APIs to build location-aware mobile applications like these. While the team is proud of Google Maps on Android and other cool applications we've seen to date, we're equally excited to see what new kinds of maps and location-enabled applications developers create in the coming months.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Google on Android: Search

On September 23, T-Mobile announced the world's first Android-powered phone, the G1. The phone comes preloaded with Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. The applications are easy to use, fully synchronized with the web, and work together in new and innovative ways, as explained in our first post in the blogseries: 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will put the spotlight on each one of the Google applications for Android. Today: Search. -- Marc Vanlerberghe, Product Marketing Director.

Google's mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Android-powered phones are designed to support the second part of that mission -- universally accessible and useful -- by making Search an integrated, easy-to-use, and platform-wide feature.

We've integrated Search with applications in a variety of ways, in order to make it universally accessible. Every searchable application includes a Search menu option. Some applications (like Maps) support type-to-search. Just start typing, and Maps will automatically open the Search UI for you! Some applications (like Android Market) have Search buttons, while others have Search widgets (like the home screen). Finally, on the T-Mobile G1, there's even a dedicated Search key on bottom row of the keyboard. Just press it and start typing your query.

We've made Search easier to use by providing suggestions. As you type, the list of suggestions refines itself, and you'll immediately jump to that search with a simple touch. There are two types of suggestions on the T-Mobile G1. Google web searches use Google Suggest technology to offer relevant, up-to-date suggestions. Other applications, like YouTube or Gmail, suggest queries you've previously made so that it's easier to find and share results that you've found before. I've even used recent query suggestions to start a search without any typing at all.

Also, we've integrated search across the platform so that applications can even share search capabilities with each other. For example, as Marc noted in his blog post, the music player can use other apps, like the browser or YouTube, to search for artist info, more music, or even music videos.

Finally, we've made it easy for third party developers to incorporate search into their applications, too. We've provided an easy-to-use API, documentation, sample code, and everything else a developer needs to implement basic searchability -- with recent query suggestions -- in their apps. What's more exciting to me is that developers can improve upon search as well. Maybe someone will find and provide new sources of searchable knowledge, or serve "mind reading" suggestions, or display search results in a more informative and beautiful way? I can't wait to see what developers come up with!

To see Google search on Android in action, check out this video:

Voting info on your phone

Interest in the upcoming U.S. elections is at an all-time high, so it's important for people to know how to register to vote. We've updated m.google.com/elections with information for each state about voter registration, early voting, and state voter hotlines. On phones with full web browsers, like the iPhone, you can also get all state online resources including complete online registration forms. (Not on a mobile device now? Send this URL to your phone.)

Voter registration deadlines are right around the corner (the earliest are Alaska, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington, which require mailed-in registrations to be postmarked by October 4) so be sure to check your state's rules in time.
Check out the Official Google Blog to learn about Google's other efforts to get out the vote.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Google on Android

At Google, we develop products that we love to use ourselves. For example, we're avid users of Search, Gmail, Maps, and many others. But for those of us in mobile, it's tough. Not all products work the same on all devices, and although we try and optimize for each device, we often run into challenges specific to certain mobile phone platforms. I, for one, used to carry three devices with me all day. I love my iPhone for its powerful browser and music player. I use my BlackBerry for Gmail and Calendar (and occasionally Brick Breaker), and I carry a Nokia N-series phone because of its camera and YouTube application.

The first Android-powered phone, announced today by T-Mobile, comes 'with Google'. The following Google applications are preloaded on the device: Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. There are a few things I'm particularly excited about:
  • Easy to use. It's never been easier to use Google on your phone. With single sign-in, you can log in to your Google account and have instant access to all your favorite Google products. No messing around with settings, your login never expires, and everything just works. If you don't have a Google account yet, you can set one up on your phone and be up and running in seconds.
  • Fully synchronized. Your emails, contacts, calendar entries, Google Talk chats are fully synchronized with Gmail and Calendar on the web. New events are pushed in real-time to your phone and any changes you make on-the-go are immediately available on the web. If you ever lose or break your phone, all your data is safe and secure in the cloud.
  • Designed to work together. Search is now available as a feature in many applications, including non-Google ones, such as the music player. While you're listening to a song -- like something from Depeche Mode -- just 'long-press' the artist's name. You'll see a menu pop up that let's you search Google for the Depeche Mode Wikipedia entry, or search YouTube for the music video. The contact application lets you see your friend's IM status, view his address on a map, and communicate with him using Gmail or Google Talk. And, of course, you can call or text him as well.
Check out the video below to see these features in action:

The Google applications on Android take full advantage of the features of the Android platform. Gmail is built on 'embedded WebViews', the real-time push features and synchronization use the multi-tasking capabilities of the platform, and the integration between applications relies on the 'Android Application Framework'.

We're kicking off a new blog series, called 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will dig deeper into each one of the Google applications available for Android, and at the end of the series, I'll let you know whether I've decided to switch phones or switch to pants that let me carry four phones instead of three.

Get public transit directions in New York with Google Maps for mobile

Now that Google Maps can give you subway, train, bus, and ferry directions in New York City, it's a handy tool for planning a night on the town. But what if your plans change while you're at dinner?

Luckily, Google Maps for mobile can give you the same public transit directions right on your cell phone! You can plan trips throughout the New York metro area, including turn-by-turn walking directions. With the My Location feature, most cell phones can automatically set the starting point for your trip, even without GPS. And satellite view and Street View (on selected devices) can show you a preview of where you're going.

With Google Maps for mobile in your pocket, you can go wherever the evening takes you, secure in the knowledge that it'll be easy to figure out how to get there. Google Maps for mobile with public transit directions is available for Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbian Series 60, and many Java-based phones. Download it by visiting http://m.google.com/nyc in your mobile phone's browser.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Street View and walking directions come to Google Maps for mobile

This July, Street View went international for the Tour de France, and in August, expanded coverage to Japan and Australia. Now, Street View is coming to another new frontier: your phone.

Today we're launching a new version of Google Maps for mobile with the same street-level imagery available on desktop. Wondering if the restaurant in your search results is the one you're thinking of? Just click "Street View" after your search to see the storefront. Unsure about a complicated intersection in your directions? Use Street View to see a photo, so there's no mistaking your turn. You can also launch Street View from any address where we have photography, or simply by clicking on the map and selecting "Street View". You can browse Street View overlaid on the map or in full screen, rotate your view to see more of your surroundings, and move along the street.

We've also added other features to help you search for and get to businesses and locations. You can now read business reviews, so you'll know if it's actually worth driving across town to that store. And once you decide where to go, you can get there on foot using the same walking directions (beta) we recently launched on desktop. Finally, we hope you'll notice significant improvements in search speed with this version, as well as better location accuracy in all versions thanks to this week's My Location update.

Check out this video to see the new release of Google Maps for mobile in action:

The newest Google Maps for mobile is available now for BlackBerry and many Java-enabled phones. To download it to your phone, visit google.com/gmm from your phone's web browser or on the desktop. We're working on bringing all these new features to other platforms as well, so stay tuned.

Posted by Michael Siliski, Product Manager

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Location: smaller is better!

My Location just got better for all the applications that use Google's geolocation service!

In November 2007 we launched My Location on Google Maps for mobile, and in the past few months, we've location-enabled other applications from third parties and Google. Hundreds of location-enabled iPhone applications, including the Google Mobile App, use Google's database of cell towers to determine approximate location. And just last week we announced Mobile Search with My Location, powered by the Gears Geolocation API.

With today's launch, your location estimate will be centered closer to your true location, and we have also improved the calculation of just how good our estimate is. When we originally launched the "blue circle" on Google Maps for mobile, the circle usually stayed the same size no matter if you were in downtown Manhattan or rural Iowa. Now, the next time you're using Google Maps in downtown Manhattan, expect to see a much smaller circle that's also far more accurate. Conversely, when you're in a lightly populated area like rural Iowa, expect to see a much larger circle which also happens to be centered closer to your true location. Check out these screenshots to get a better idea of the before and after effects of today's change:

New York City -- a smaller light blue circle denotes that we're more confident of your actual location.

Slater, Iowa - the light blue circle is larger because there are fewer cell towers with which to determine your location, but the dark blue circle is more accurately centered in downtown Slater

So how exactly have we made these improvements? Mobile operators typically need a lot more cell towers in populous areas to service all the users. This means each individual tower provides a much smaller coverage footprint. On the other hand, in a very sparsely populated area, towers provide much larger coverage footprints. We've developed algorithms to try and figure out what the right circle size should be and are pleased to make this available to you today.

There's actually nothing you need to do to start enjoying the new improvements to My Location. Any application powered by Google's geolocation service automatically benefits from today's launch. Enjoy!

Posted by Zhengrong Ji, Software Engineer

Friday, September 12, 2008

Introducing Mobile Search with My Location

From time to time, we all need information about local businesses when we're away from our computers -- like confirming the address of a bar while on the way to meet friends. Today we're introducing Search with My Location, a new way to make searching for nearby businesses on your Windows Mobile phone faster and easier.

Previously, when you went to google.com from your phone’s browser and performed a local search, the results were tailored to the last location you entered. Now, using the Gears Geolocation API, Search with My Location approximates your actual location using the same Cell ID technology used by Google maps for mobile. So if you want to find sushi nearby, just type "sushi" and Google will return local business listings around you. If you want to know the forecast, type "weather". If you want to search somewhere else, specify a location in the query like "pizza Kansas City".

We take your privacy seriously and have designed Search with My Location so that it doesn't associate your location with any personally identifiable information, even if you are logged in. We won’t send your location until you explicitly opt in, and you can always opt-out from the Gears Settings under the Tools menu.

Note that some devices don't yet support My Location. For this reason, we’re initially launching the feature on the devices listed in this help center article while we work with manufacturers to add support to future phone versions.

Initially, Search with My Location will be available in the US and UK. To get started, visit google.com from your phone and click on the My Location link under the search box (you may have to refresh the page to see the link). Enjoy the new feature and check out the video to see how Search with My Location can help save your thumbs!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Google Mobile App for BlackBerry: faster, stronger, better

Today we're pleased to launch Google Mobile App for BlackBerry. It's a free download and it looks like this:
To download the App, visit m.google.com on your BlackBerry device.

Once it's installed you'll have faster search and easy access to Maps, Gmail, News, and more from Google.

So what exactly will you get?
  • Fast Google search - enter queries without waiting for a browser to load
  • Search history - easily access and amend your previous queries
  • Google Suggest - complete queries with less typing
  • Easy access to Google products for your phone - click once to download and install our applications for BlackBerry, and get immediate access to our web-based services
  • Google Apps support - get direct links to your Google Apps Calendar and Documents/Spreadsheets (select Menu, Options, Use Google Apps Domain: yes, and then enter your domain name)
  • Update alerts - learn about new versions of downloadable Google mobile applications and upgrade with just one click (Google Mobile App replaces Google Updater for BlackBerry)
We hope you'll enjoy using Google Mobile App.

A final tip - you can make it even easier to get all of this whenever you need it... just assign Google Mobile App to a convenience key using these instructions.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Following the US elections on your phone

Elections in the US are coming, and the race is heating up. With Joe Biden just announced as the Democratic VP nominee, speculation is increasing about the Republican choice. To help you stay up to date on the latest election updates, we've set up a new one stop shop for your mobile electoral needs. Just go to m.google.com/elections on your mobile phone, and you can find these resources:
  • Mobile Search - Link to search results for Obama and McCain, so you don't have to type in their names on your phone each time you want information.
  • Mobile News - Read the latest! A handy link returns only elections-relevant news.
  • Mobile Reader - Are you subscribed to the Google Power Readers in Politics? If you're already following the reading lists of the presidential candidates or prominent political journalists on Google Reader, you can keep it up while you're on the go. Not yet subscribed? Manage your account and subscriptions on your desktop computer.
  • Mobile YouTube - Both presidential candidates have their own YouTube channels. Watch their latest clips of speeches and press conferences from your phone.
  • Mobile Maps - Are you going to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, or the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis? Make sure you've got Google Maps for mobile on your phone to help you get around town. (And if you're going, stop by and say hello! We'll be at both conventions.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Gears Geolocation API powers mobile web sites

Imagine if web sites could provide you with customized information based on your current location, even if you don't have GPS. Today we're launching the Gears Geolocation API for mobile and desktop browsers, while two third-party developers are launching the first location-enabled web apps using this API on Windows Mobile.

One of the most popular travel sites in the Europe, lastminute.com, has now location-enabled their new mobile restaurant finder to help you find restaurants near you without requiring you to type in where you are. If you're in the UK, just go to fonefood at m.lastminute.com, click the "Find your location" link on the home page, select the type of restaurant you want, and lastminute.com will automatically work out which neighbourhood and city you are in and find matching restaurants. This is great for both UK residents and the millions of tourists who visit each year.

Rummble is a new social discovery tool where you can recommend places to visit and see personalised recommendations from friends. Just go to m.rummble.com and click on the "Update location with Gears" link on the home page to see the "Rummbles" near you.

These two apps make use of the Gears Geolocation API. The API can determine your location using nearby cell-towers or GPS for your mobile device or your computer's IP address for your laptop. Google provides this service for free to both developers and users.

Gears is available on IE Mobile on mobile and Internet Explorer and Firefox on desktop. To use the location-enabled lastminute.com and Rummble web apps you will need a Windows Mobile device that supports GPS or cell-id lookup (for example the Samsung Blackjack II and HTC Touch Dual, see supported devices FAQ). We are working hard to bring Gears to more mobile platforms, such as Android and others.

Google takes your privacy very seriously. Although Gears and the Geolocation API do not record your location, you should only allow web sites that you trust to access your location. Gears will always tell you when a site wants to access your location for the first time and you can either allow or deny that site permission. Always check the privacy policy of the web site if you are in doubt as to how they may use your location information.

If you are in the UK and have a supported Windows Mobile device visit m.lastminute.com and m.rummble.com today. The first time you use the location feature you will be prompted to download and install Gears.