Saturday, June 28, 2008

The New Google Mobile Community



If you've been following this blog at all, it's probably pretty clear that we're passionate about mobile technology. And if you have really been following this blog, it probably means that you are passionate about mobile technology too. Well, we've created a place for you to connect with other mobile enthusiasts: the new Google Mobile Community.

We envision this community as being a place where you can discuss the world of mobile in general -- like cool new applications you've discovered or what you wish your phone could do. Or maybe you're looking to buy a new phone, and you're not sure which one to pick. Ask the group.

We also want the community to be a place where you can tell us what you think about our very own products. Sometimes we'll throw out a question about our products that only you have the answers to, such as why you use (or don't use) a certain feature. So keep an eye out for posts where we're asking for your feedback -- like this one. But also feel free to give us unsolicited feedback. What do you like about our mobile products? What don't you like? Are there features or products you would like to see? Be honest. We can take it.

There's really no limit to the discussion, with one small caveat: if you are trying to troubleshoot a specific technical issue with a particular Google product, check out our general Google Mobile Help Group or our more specific Maps and Gmail for mobile groups -- those are the places to ask technical questions. Search the group or post questions to find answers from other users about Google mobile products.

So come join the community... We're excited to hear from you!

Friday, June 27, 2008

An easier way to get started with Google Mobile



As we've added more and more products to the Google Mobile lineup, our users have asked for an easier way to learn how to get started with Google on their phones. We've listened closely to the feedback and are happy to announce the launch of the new mobile.google.com site -- the place to discover what you can do with Google on your phone.

When you go to the site, just select a phone from the list of popular devices and you'll get to see the Google products that are available. You can click on a product to get more information and watch a short video.

When you're ready to get started, just enter your mobile number and we'll send a link directly to your phone so you don't have to type the address. You can also go straight to m.google.com from your phone's browser to find out what products are available for your phone and to get started.

If you're in the US, try out the new site at mobile.google.com -- you'll be able to get the best from Google on your phone, with less effort than ever. Be sure to visit the new Google Mobile Community group to share feedback and discuss with fellow mobile enthusiasts.

New Google search results pages for BlackBerry users



Two weeks ago we updated our mobile homepage in the US so that it would load more quickly. Today, we're releasing in the US a number of improvements to our mobile search results pages for BlackBerry browsers. These new improvements are designed to help you find the information you want more easily.
  • Improved comprehensiveness: Our mobile search now incorporates results from Product Search, Blog Search, News archives search, and more.
  • Blended results: Instead of showing you web, image, local and news results in separate sections, we now combine them to improve relevance. We've also made it easier for you to focus your search on any one of these categories -- notice how the links are now placed at the top of the results page.
  • Longer snippets: Web results include longer snippets so that your answer may be right on the results page.
  • Related searches: At the bottom of the search results page, you'll find a list of related searches to help you refine a query.
You may notice that many of these improvements mirror our desktop search capabilities. We have taken desktop elements that have tested well on mobile and further optimized them for the mobile use case. Improving mobile search is a continuous process and we hope you find the releases this past month to move the needle on what we care most about: quality, speed and ease of use.

To watch a demo of our new mobile search results pages, take a peek at the video below. Or better yet, test drive our new search results page yourself. It's simple. Go to google.com on your BlackBerry browser and search away!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Introducing Mobile Tricks, our new YouTube channel for cell phone enthusiasts



Mobile phones are awesome. I use mine all the time, from using it as a flashlight to find my keys, to a calendar to see just how late I am for an appointment. But people do much more interesting things than that with phones nowadays. And so the Google mobile team poses the question to you: what can you do with your phone?



Upload your best tip or trick to YouTube on our brand new Mobile Tricks channel. We'll post all the ones we like to our playlists for the world to see in one centralized space, and will be blogging about our favorites here every so often. Be it a useful tip on how to use your phone to get internet access on your computer or a fun trick like juggling a phone and two rubber chickens, we want to see what you've got!

To get you started, our friend Dave Stone at the Advertising Program at Art Center saves us from aliens and our friends at Blendtec do what they do best. More great videos next week!



Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Location in your Palm





We're excited to release an update to Google Maps for mobile for Palm OS. For Palm Centro users, this update includes the My Location feature which allows you to see your location on a map without GPS. If you have a Centro, just press 0 and the map will snap to your current area. Google Maps for mobile will determine your approximate location from the cell phone tower your phone is connected to. Please note that if you have a Sprint Centro, you must first upgrade its operating system to Maintenance Release 1 for My Location to work.

Unfortunately, older Palm models such as the Treos don't have the APIs needed to get the cell tower data, so My Location is not available on these models. All Palm OS phones will be able to enjoy the other features of this release. Google Maps for mobile now supports hybrid view so you can view satellite imagery with street names layered on top. We've also improved the user interface for finding businesses, addresses, and directions. The route summary now lets you scroll through step-by-step instructions that you can copy to the clipboard. Visit www.google.com/gmm on the desktop or your mobile phone to get the latest release of Google Maps for mobile.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Faster search for Nokia smartphones now available in eight international flavours



Back in February we announced a new search shortcut for Nokia smartphones. We've been really pleased with the uptake and with the very positive reaction it's received from the Symbian community. Even though we launched it in the US, we saw some very interesting usage patterns -- people all around the world were downloading and using it.

Of course, Symbian phones are popular almost everywhere. So we're now releasing an international version of the search shortcut for those of you in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia and the UK. Nokia smartphone owners in these countries can now enjoy 40% faster search and get Google search results from their own country.
It's a free download. Just add it to your phone now by going to the URL for your country using the phone's browser and then choosing the download link for Search. The download and installation should only take a minute or so and you'll be good to go. Happy searching!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Talk to us: GOOG-411 now available in Canada



Our mission, to organize the world's information and make it accessible, certainly doesn't stop at the US borders. With that in mind, we've recently expanded our GOOG-411 service to Canada. If you're in Canada, you can now find business listings by dialing 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-4664-411) from any phone -- for free.

You can use GOOG-411 to find and connect with businesses you've never called before, such as when you're in an unfamiliar city or when an immediate need arises -- like a plumbing emergency. You can also use GOOG-411 as a "fast dialer" for calls to your dentist, car mechanic, bank, or any other business that you call more than once but isn't in your phone's contact list. For example, instead of memorizing or making a note of the number of your favorite Chinese restaurant, you can call GOOG-411 and connect directly to place your weekly take-out order.

At Google, we work hard to tailor products to specific markets and regions. We believe that accounting for the unique characteristics of each country can make the difference between an OK service and a great one. Although English is spoken in both the US and Canada, there are enough differences between the way it's spoken in the two countries that we engineered GOOG-411 especially for Canadian English. We incorporated some Canadianisms such as "eh," "Traw-na," "Cal-gry," and, of course, "aboot." We also took into account geographical differences. Whereas users in the US are prompted for "city and state," Canadians are asked for your "city and province."

The service is still experimental but offers all the same features available in the US, such as free call, free connection, SMS info, iPhone "Map-It" integration, and more. For now, the service supports only English queries, but we're working hard to make it disponible en Fran├žais dans un proche avenir.

Please give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments section below.

S60 video contest winner features Google Maps for mobile


The See into S60 blog recently ran a contest on YouTube that encouraged readers to submit videos highlighting how they use their S60 phones. We were pleased to see that the winner of the "Show Your Favorite Application" category was an amusing video featuring Google Maps for mobile. We're excited to hear from passionate S60 users who love Google Maps for mobile, and we look forward to rolling out exciting features on S60 phones soon.

Here's the winning video:


Friday, June 13, 2008

Mobile search access gets faster; iGoogle gets easier to use



We at Google are obsessed with making your mobile search experience as fast as possible. With that in mind, we've just updated our mobile homepage to allow for a quicker load time, providing you with even faster access to the information you need while on the go.

How do we do this? When you navigate to google.com in your browser, we cache the homepage on your phone. If you bookmark this homepage, then returning to Google using the bookmark is almost instantaneous. Whether you come to Google by browser or through our new search plug-in, starting your search is now quicker and simpler than ever before.

Also launching today is an improved mobile iGoogle interface that provides you with access to your mobile-compatible gadgets anytime, anywhere. We've linked your iGoogle gadgets directly from the new mobile home page and made it easier for you to set up your mobile iGoogle page from the desktop. By going to your iGoogle settings page on a computer, you can choose and rearrange your favorite gadgets for your phone. For example, if weather and news are the most important items to you when on the go, you can drag and drop these gadgets to the top of your page. In addition, you can now read article summaries by clicking on the "More" option on any RSS gadget.



Watch the video below as Steve Cheng and I demo the new search and iGoogle for mobile from opposite sides of the continent. Or just go to iGoogle to sign in and get started. And once your page is set up, remember to bookmark iGoogle on your phone for fast access to all your content. Note that these improvements are available on all non-iPhone devices, as iPhone users have alternative Google search and iGoogle offerings. Happy searching!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Picasa now customized for Nokia S60 and translated into 36 languages



Joe optimized Picasa Web Albums for the iPhone and Zak made it shine on Windows Mobile. This made me wonder about Nokia phones. Ever since S60 3rd Edition came out, phones like the Nokia N95 have had good web browsers. Why not give Picasa Web Albums on S60 some AJAXy goodness, with faster browsing and a slicker user interface as well? I investigated what it would take to make our existing design work on S60 and it turned out to be really easy! And since I'm Dutch, I also wanted to view this interface without needing to switch my account language to English. So we had it translated into 36 new languages. We also gave the toolbar an overhaul, adding simpler to understand icons. You can now get this new version of Picasa Web Albums on all S60 phones using a WebKit-based browser, as well as iPhone using Safari and Windows Mobile 6 Professional using Internet Explorer. As an added bonus we've also added support for Windows Mobile 6 Standard.

Finally, based on requests we've had on this blog, we've added a zoom feature for the iPhone. When viewing a photo that was uploaded to Picasa Web Albums in high resolution, just tap on the zoom button -- the one with the magnifying glass. This will take you to a page with a high-resolution image where you can use those wonderful finger gestures for zooming and panning around in the zoomed area.



Head to picasaweb.google.com to give it a try, and be sure to let us know what you think! There's a good chance now that your phone and preferred language are supported.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Google enables Location-aware Applications for 3rd Party Developers



At Google we're very excited about the promise of location technology to drive innovation in the mobile industry. We of course use this location technology already in Google Maps for mobile with the My Location feature. However, we wanted 3rd party developers to also have access to the same location technology across multiple platforms. Gears for Windows Mobile and Android already contain location APIs and we expect to see an explosion of mobile applications that use location technology, particularly on the iPhone starting this month.

Some have wondered: How does it work?

Google Maps for mobile version 2.0 launched last November with a new feature called My Location. My Location enables users to pinpoint their approximate location on a map even if their phone doesn't have a GPS chip. My Location is now available in more than 200 countries and across many different platforms, including BlackBerry, Nokia Series 60, Apple iPhone/iPod Touch, Windows Mobile, and many Java phones. Here's a video that explains what it does. Since the launch, we've seen accelerated growth in the adoption of Google Maps for mobile and have received lots of enthusiastic user feedback on My Location.

We're happy to lift the covers and give you a peek into the inner workings of the Google location server, which powers the My Location feature.

Wireless phones can make and receive calls because they are connected over the air to a nearby cell tower. The phone knows the ID of the cell tower that it's currently using. If the phone has GPS, the Maps application on the phone sends the GPS coordinates along with the cell ID to the Google location server. Over millions of such updates, across multiple phones, carriers, and times, the server clusters the GPS updates corresponding to a particular cell ID to find their rough center. So when a phone without GPS needs its own location, the application on the phone queries the Google location server with the cell tower ID to translate that into a geographic location, i.e., lat/long coordinates. Nifty, huh? We think so.


We're working hard to further improve our location platform and making it more widely available. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Get bus and train directions on the go with Google Maps for mobile

Joe Hughes, Software Engineer

Ever since Google Maps added public transportation directions for San Francisco, it's been a lot easier for me to figure out which buses and trains will get me where I'm going around town, so that today's gas prices take less of a toll on my wallet. Even so, I've often found myself wishing that I had an easy way to get transit directions while I'm out and about.

Enter the new version of Google Maps for mobile. This version (2.2) allows you to get transit directions in all the same places as the web version of Google Maps, including Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Vancouver, and over 40 other cities in North America.

This version of Google Maps for mobile even has a few tricks not yet available on the desktop version of Google Maps. For instance, you can find the last transit trips of the day (to figure out how late you can stay at the party) and more easily browse through earlier or later trips. The My Location feature, available on most phones, also makes it easier to set the start point of your journey.

To see how the transit feature of Google Maps for mobile works, take a look at this quick video walkthrough with my co-worker Ryan:


This version of Google Maps for mobile also includes a bunch of other goodies, like faster searching on BlackBerry devices and star ratings for businesses. It's currently available for BlackBerry devices and many other Java-based phones. To download it to your phone visit http://www.google.com/gmm from your phone's web browser or on the desktop.

We're working to bring public transit directions to Google Maps on other devices, so stay tuned!