Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ho Ho Ho! Follow Santa's journey around the world on your phone

Like most kids, all I wanted to do on Christmas Eve was stay up and wait for Santa to arrive. One year, I went downstairs in the middle of the night and sat down in front of the Christmas tree to wait for Santa. Unfortunately, I soon fell asleep. When I awoke on Christmas morning the presents were under the tree and the milk and cookies I left out for Santa had been eaten. I had missed him. But next to the plate of crumbs, there was a note... from Santa himself! He thanked me for trying to wait up for him. I was so excited that I got a note from Santa that I forgot all about having fallen asleep and missing him. Every year after that I made sure to go to bed extra early to make sure that Santa stopped by.

This year, no one needs to go to bed early to make sure Santa comes over. Since NORAD is tracking Santa's journey around the world, you can find his current location on the 24th. If you see he's getting close by, just hop into bed. And if he's already passed by your house but you don't yet see presents (or coal!) under the tree, rest assured he'll be looping back once you're asleep. Read more about how NORAD tracks Santa on our Official Google Blog.

To make following Santa's journey even easier, you can find him on your phone too. Make sure you have Google Maps for mobile (available for most phones). Then just search! Just as you'd put in a query for "pizza" to find pizza places, or "San Antonio" to find it on a map, you can search for "Santa" to find where he is at the time. This way, you can stay up to date whether you're lounging by the fire at a ski lodge, stuck in traffic en route to Grandma's (get your kids to look it up for you!), or at the dinner table. To get started, go to m.noradsanta.org on your mobile phone, or just search for "Santa" in Google Maps for mobile on December 24th.


Matt Aldridge, Mobile Elf

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Iterative Web App: Feature-Rich and Fast

Every mobile engineering team -- including Google's -- struggles to make its applications available to all users on all devices. Even if you scope your work to today's smartphones, you're left with no less than five major operating systems. But we pay this cost because native code is often the only way to build an app that's rich enough and fast enough to meet users' needs. Enter the mobile web.

A growing number of mobile devices ship with an all-important feature: a modern web browser. And this is significant for two reasons:
  1. As an engineering team, we can build a single app with HTML and JavaScript, and have it "just work" across many mobile operating systems. The cost savings are substantial, not to mention the time you can re-invest in user-requested features.
  2. Having a web application also means we can launch products and features as soon as they're ready. And for users, the latest version of the app is always just a URL and a refresh away.
Of course: what sounds good in theory doesn't always materialize in practice. So back in April 2009 our team began re-building Gmail for mobile for today's modern browsers. We wanted to know: Could the mobile web support Gmail's basic and advanced features? Could we stuff the app with functionality while still keeping it fast and responsive? Today, and for the first time, we have answers to both questions.

Over the past 8 months we've pushed the limits of HTML5 to launch a steady string of Gmail features, including:
So yes, HTML5 and the mobile web are clearly up to the task of building rich and powerful apps. But speed is arguably the most important feature of any application. And we've remained unsatisfied with Gmail's performance on the mobile web. Until now.

As of today, and thanks to numerous optimizations, I'm happy to report that Gmail for mobile loads 2-3x faster than it did in April (see Figure 1). In fact on newer iPhone and Android devices, the app now loads in under 3 seconds. So yes, the mobile web can deliver really responsive applications.


Figure 1: Best and Worst Case Gmail for mobile start-up times, April 2009 vs. December 2009. All figures recorded on an iPhone 3G with EDGE data access.

The Gmail for mobile team isn't done, of course. We've focused primarily on performance over the past few months, but many other features and optimizations are on the way. So keep visiting gmail.com for the latest and greatest version of the app.

Looking ahead, it's also worth noting that as a worldwide mobile team, we'll continue to build native apps where it makes sense. But we're incredibly optimistic about the future of the mobile web -- both for developers and for the users we serve.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Android dogfood diet for the holidays

At Google, we are constantly experimenting with new products and technologies, and often ask employees to test these products for quick feedback and suggestions for improvements in a process we call dogfooding (from "eating your own dogfood"). Well this holiday season, we are taking dogfooding to a new level.

We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it.

Unfortunately, because dogfooding is a process exclusively for Google employees, we cannot share specific product details. We hope to share more after our dogfood diet.

Tis the Season to be Merry and Mobile

Holiday season is in full swing (again). And we want to help you take advantage of everything your mobile device can offer to help deck the halls or hit the malls. If you're like us, you'll probably use your phone to research products and check out reviews, locate stores, purchase gifts, or capture holiday memories with a photo or video. In fact, a recent study estimates that 19% of consumers will use their phone for holiday shopping research, coupons, or purchases (a number that's likely much higher for our mobile-savvy blog readers). So we've posted a 'Holiday Help' section in our Mobile Help Center to share tips and tricks for using Google's mobile products during the holidays. Take a peek if you want to learn some new tips and tricks to help you get through the season. Happy holidays!



Thursday, December 10, 2009

New version of Google Mobile App for iPhone in the App Store

Hello, iPhone users! We have just received the good news that our new version of Google Mobile App for iPhone was approved and is now available on in the App Store everywhere.

In this version, we have a redesigned search results display that shows more results at once and, more importantly, opens web pages from the results within the app. This will get you to what you need faster, which is always our goal at Google.


For those less utilitarian and more flamboyant, we've exposed our visual tweaks settings called "Bells and Whistles" - some of our users had discovered this already in previous versions. You can style your Google Mobile App in any shade: red, taupe, or even heliotrope. If you're on a faster iPhone, like the iPhone 3GS, you may want to try the live waveform setting which turns on, as the name suggests, a moving waveform when you search by voice.

On the subject of searching by voice, you can now choose your spoken language or accent. For example, if you're Australian but live in London, you can improve the recognition accuracy by selecting Australian in the Voice Search settings. And now both Mandarin and Japanese are supported languages as well.

If you don't have Google Mobile App yet, download it from the App Store or read more about it. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to join in on our support forums or suggest ideas in our Mobile Products Ideas page. You can also follow us on Twitter @googlemobileapp.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mobile Search for a New Era: Voice, Location and Sight

Editor's note: today Google held a launch event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. Fresh off the stage, we've invited Vic to highlight the mobile team's announcements, and the unique set of technologies that make them possible. (All [video] links point to event footage that will be viewable later today.)

A New Era of Computing

Mobile devices straddle the intersection of three significant industry trends: computing (or Moore's Law), connectivity, and the cloud. Simply put:
  • Phones get more powerful and less expensive all the time
  • They're connected to the Internet more often, from more places; and
  • They tap into computational power that's available in datacenters around the world
These "Cs" aren't new: we've discussed them in isolation for over 40 years. But today's smartphones -- for the first time -- combine all three into a personal, handheld experience. We've only begun to appreciate the impact of these converged devices, but we're pretty sure about one thing: we've moved past the PC-only era, into a world where search is forever changed.

Just think: with a sensor-rich phone that's connected to the cloud, users can now search by voice (using the microphone), by location (using GPS and the compass), and by sight (using the camera). And we're excited to share Google's early contributions to this new era of computing.

Search by Voice

We first launched search by voice about a year ago, enabling millions of users to speak to Google. And we're constantly reminded that the combination of a powerful device, an Internet connection, and datacenters in the cloud is what makes it work. After all:
  • We first stream sound files to Google's datacenters in real-time
  • We then convert utterances into phonemes, into words, into phrases; and
  • We then compare phrases against Google's billions of daily queries to assign probability scores to all possible transcriptions; and
  • We do all of this in the time it takes to speak a few words
Over the past 12 months we've introduced the product on many more devices, in more languages, with vastly improved accuracy rates. And today we're announcing that search by voice understands Japanese, joining English and Mandarin.

Looking ahead, we dream of combining voice recognition with our language translation infrastructure to provide in-conversation translation [video]-- a UN interpreter for everyone! And we're just getting started.

Search by Location

Your phone's location is usually your location: it's in your pocket, in your purse, or on your nightstand, and as a result it's more personal than any PC before it. This intimacy is what makes location-based services possible, and for its part, Google continues to invest in things like My Location, real-time traffic, and turn-by-turn navigation. Today we're tackling a question that's simple to ask, but surprisingly difficult to answer: "What's around here, anyway?"

Suppose you're early to pickup your child from school, or your drive to dinner was quicker than expected, or you've just checked into a new hotel. Chances are you've got time to kill, but you don't want to spend it entering addresses, sifting through POI categories, or even typing a search. Instead you just want stuff nearby, whatever that might be. Your location is your query, and we hear you loud and clear.

Today we're announcing "What's Nearby" for Google Maps on Android 1.6+ devices, available as an update from Android Market. To use the feature just long press anywhere on the map, and we'll return a list of the 10 closest places, including restaurants, shops and other points of interest. It's a simple answer to a simple question, finally. (And if you visit google.com from your iPhone or Android device in a few weeks, clicking "Near me now" will deliver the same experience [video].)

Of course our future plans include more than just nearby places. In the new year we'll begin showing local product inventory in search results [video]; and Google Suggest will even include location-specific search terms [video]. All thanks to powerful, Internet-enabled mobile devices.

Search by Sight

When you connect your phone's camera to datacenters in the cloud, it becomes an eye to see and search with. It sees the world like you do, but it simultaneously taps the world's info in ways that you can't. And this makes it a perfect answering machine for your visual questions.

Perhaps you're vacationing in a foreign country, and you want to learn more about the monument in your field of view. Maybe you're visiting a modern art museum, and you want to know who painted the work in front of you. Or maybe you want wine tasting notes for the Cabernet sitting on the dinner table. In every example, the query you care about isn't a text string, or a location -- it's whatever you're looking at. And today we're announcing a Labs product for Android 1.6+ devices that lets users search by sight: Google Goggles.



In a nutshell, Goggles lets users search for objects using images rather than words. Simply take a picture with your phone's camera, and if we recognize the item, Goggles returns relevant search results. Right now Goggles identifies landmarks, works of art, and products (among other things), and in all cases its ability to "see further" is rooted in powerful computing, pervasive connectivity, and the cloud:
  • We first send the user's image to Google's datacenters
  • We then create signatures of objects in the image using computer vision algorithms
  • We then compare signatures against all other known items in our image recognition databases; and
  • We then figure out how many matches exist; and
  • We then return one or more search results, based on available meta data and ranking signals; and
  • We do all of this in just a few seconds
Now, with all this talk of algorithms, image corpora and meta data, you may be wondering, "Why is Goggles in Labs?" The answer -- as you might guess -- lies in both the nascence of the technology, and the scope of our ambitions.

Computer vision, like all of Google's extra-sensory efforts, is still in its infancy. Today Goggles recognizes certain images in certain categories, but our goal is to return high quality results for any image. Today you frame and snap a photo to get results, but one day visual search will be as natural as pointing a finger -- like a mouse for the real world. Either way we've got plenty of work to do, so please download Goggles from Android Market and help us get started.

The Beginning of the Beginning

All of today's mobile announcements -- from Japanese Voice Search to a new version of Maps to Google Goggles -- are just early examples of what's possible when you pair sensor-rich devices with resources in the cloud. After all: we've only recently entered this new era, and we'll have more questions than answers for the foreseeable future. But something has changed. Computing has changed. And the possibilities inspire us.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Keep your starred items in sync with Google Maps

(cross-posted with Google LatLong Blog)

Google Maps for mobile has long allowed you to add stars on a map to mark your favorite places. You may have noticed a few months ago that Google Maps for desktop browsers introduced the ability to star places as well. Unfortunately, there was no way to keep these starred places in sync with Google Maps on your phone. With today's release of Google Maps for mobile 3.3 on Windows Mobile and Symbian phones, you'll now be able to keep the starred places on your phone and on your computer completely synchronized. It's like magic, but magic that you can use. Let me show you how:

My colleague Andy is at his desk right now, and he wants to check out some comedy in London tonight. Google Maps lists the 4th result as Upstairs at the Ritzy -- it sounds like a great spot: cheap, fun and comfortable. With one click, Andy stars the item and he's done. When he walks out of the office and turns on Google Maps on his Nokia phone, Upstairs at the Ritzy will be the top place in his list of Starred Items, and it will show up as a star on his map. From there he can call the theater, get walking directions, or even SMS the address to a friend.

Starring on Google Maps for desktop computers and Google Maps for mobile

Starring places also works great when you're out on the town and you find cool spots using your phone. I was in Paris with my wife recently. We visited the obvious tourist spots like la tour Eiffel and le Musée du Louvre, but we also found a few interesting places we hadn't expected. While wandering the streets of Paris, we stumbled upon a cafe...the sort of place you'll remember forever, but immediately forget the name. I started Google Maps on my Nokia phone, searched for the name of the cafe (Les Philosophes) and starred it, knowing that when I come back to Google Maps on my computer at home, it will be starred, right there, on my map. How cool is it to create a trail of interesting places from your phone?!

For users upgrading from an older version of Google Maps for mobile, you'll be asked, when you log in, whether you'd like to synchronize your existing starred items with your Google Account. This means you can preserve all the work you've put into customizing your map on your mobile, and have it show up, conveniently, in Google Maps in your desktop browser.

To enjoy the benefits of all this mobile synchronization goodness, download Google Maps for mobile for your Symbian or Windows Mobile phone by visiting m.google.com/maps in your mobile browser. And don't worry, we're busy building this same functionality into our other mobile versions of Google Maps -- so sit tight.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Google Search by voice: Now in Times Square!

If you've been to Times Square in New York City over the past couple weeks, on any day from 12:30-2:00pm or 6:30-8:00pm, you may have noticed that Google Search by voice is powering Times Square's largest combined displays -- the Reuters Sign and the NASDAQ sign. Anyone can call 888-376-4336 and say the name of a business or a location that they want to search for, like "museum of modern art" or "pizza". Then, the query and local search results from Google will appear on one of the two electronic billboards. This is all part of Verizon's "Droid Does" campaign and has been developed in partnership with Reuters and R/GA, a digital advertising agency.

On Black Friday, Times Square's gigantic interactive search-by-voice demo will be running for 20 hours straight. So if you're in the area and have a chance to take a break from your shopping, or if you want to see your next shopping destination displayed on a Google map on the huge signs, give the demo a try and let us know what you think. And for those of you that aren't in Manhattan on that day, you can still watch the action via webcam.

I flew out to New York last week to try it myself. R/GA gave me a behind-the-scenes tour of the setup, and I was impressed by how they pulled this off. A caller's voice is sent through the phone system, directly into a small farm of real Droids running voice search that are connected to the big outdoor electronic displays! R/GA developers made use of the Android voice recognition API just like any Android developer can.

It's been quite a ride for the search by voice team -- from launching on the iPhone about a year ago, to our launches on BlackBerry and Android, and on S60 in Mandarin Chinese, to powering billboards in Times Square. We're thankful for the chance to work on technology that excites us and that can help more of you search faster and more easily on your phone. And we hope you've been noticing the ongoing improvements in the accuracy of our voice recognition. We can't wait to show you what we have in store for next year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Get movie trailers and more with Google Search for mobile

Heads up, movie fans -- today we've launched a mobile version of our new Google Search results for movies, which makes it easier to plan a trip to the movies. Just go to google.com in the web browser on your iPhone, Palm WebOS, or Android-powered device, search for "movies", and then tap on the "More movies" link. From there, you can either browse a list of movies or select the "Theaters" button to browse a list of theaters near you.

Our new movie listings page now includes buttons to play trailers right on your phone, ratings and categories, movie posters, upcoming showtimes, and a concise list of the nearest theaters and their distances from you. We keep information on this page succinct so you can quickly browse through shows and showtimes to help you decide which movie to see. If you want more details about a specific movie, just touch the poster or movie title and you'll see our new movie details page that has a synopsis of the movie, a more detailed list of showtimes, the cast and crew, and pictures. Watch our trailer for a quick demo:



When you browse by theater, you'll see a map of the theaters nearest to you. Then, just tap on the link to any particular theater to see what shows are playing there and what times they're playing. Of course, you can also search for specific movies or theaters and see their listings right away. Try searching for recent movies like "New Moon" or "Where the Wild Things Are" or search for "glendale 18 los angeles".

If you enjoy searching for movies with Google nearly as much as we have during testing, then this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Our new search results for movies are available in English in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. As always, let us know your feedback. This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

The Iterative Web App: A new look for Gmail and Google mobile web apps

On April 7th, we announced a new version of Gmail for mobile for iPhone and Android-powered devices. Among the improvements was a complete redesign of the web application's underlying code which allows us to more rapidly develop and release new features that users have been asking for, as explained in our first post. We'd like to introduce The Iterative Webapp, a series where we will continue to release features for Gmail for mobile. Today: A new look for our buttons and toolbars.

Some of you noticed and asked us about recent changes we made to Gmail for mobile and a few of our other mobile web apps. If you use the web browser to access Gmail, Latitude, Calendar, or Tasks on your Android-powered device or iPhone, you'll see that we freshened up the look of the buttons and toolbars.

We never want the buttons and toolbars of Google apps to compete with your content; rather, they should complement them. So the headers and buttons are now darker, to better show the content of your emails and calendar entries.

We also made the all the buttons a bit larger, for easier button-tapping.

To try these apps yourself, point your mobile browser to Gmail (gmail.com), Calendar (google.com/calendar), Latitude (google.com/latitude), Tasks (gmail.com/tasks), or just go to google.com from you phone and find all these web apps under the 'more' link.

Is this an improvement? Let us know what you think.

Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server now connects businesses of all sizes

(Cross posted from the Google Enterprise Blog)

When we launched the Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry® Enterprise Server in August, we focused on addressing the needs of companies operating their own BlackBerry Enterprise Servers, typically supporting a couple hundred BlackBerry smartphone users per server.

Of course, companies of all sizes are adopting Apps, and their needs for supporting BlackBerry smartphones are as diverse as their businesses. So today we're making it easier for companies large and small to manage their BlackBerry smartphones and save money.

With Google Apps Connector for BES version 1.5, large businesses can now support 500 BlackBerry devices per server, double the previous number. This lets them serve more users with fewer servers.

Small businesses get more flexibility too. The Apps Connector now supports BlackBerry Professional Software, which is designed for up to 30 BlackBerry smartphones. We've also made it possible for a single BlackBerry Enterprise Server to serve users in multiple Google Apps domains, enabling low cost hosting services to be offered by our hosting partners.

Stay tuned for more announcements from partners offering hosting services for Apps customers with BlackBerry smartphones. In the meantime, we're going to continue to make it easier for you to manage mobile devices of all types with Google Apps.

Posted by Zhengping Zuo, Software Engineer and Darrell Kuhn, Site Reliability Engineer

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Travels: Google Maps Navigation now available for Android 1.6

A few weeks ago we launched Google Maps Navigation (Beta) as a free feature of Google Maps on Android 2.0 devices. Today we're expanding availability of Google Maps Navigation to devices running Android 1.6 (Donut) and higher, such as the T-Mobile myTouch 3G and the G1.

Google Maps Navigation is an internet-connected GPS system with voice guidance and automatic rerouting, all running on your mobile phone. Using Google services over your phone's data connection brings important benefits to GPS navigation users, like using Google search (typed or spoken) to enter your destination; fresh map, business, and traffic data; and satellite and Street View imagery along your route.

This release also includes the new Layers feature, which lets you overlay geographical information on the map. View My Maps, transit lines, Wikipedia articles about places, and more.

So if you're traveling this Thanksgiving, you'll be able to enjoy the benefits of an internet connection, whether it's free Wi-Fi at the airport or Google Maps Navigation in your car.

If you have a phone running Android 1.6, you can download an updated version of Google Maps from Android Market to use Navigation today. Google Maps Navigation is in beta and is currently available in the United States. Some features of Android 2.0 are not available on Android 1.6, for example, the ability to use the "navigate to" voice command as shown in our demo video. However, you can still create a shortcut that will allow you to launch Navigation and start getting directions to a specific place from your current location with just a single touch from your home screen. For example, you can create a "Home" shortcut to quickly navigate home, no matter where you are. Just use the "Add" menu item from the home screen, then choose "Shortcuts", then "Directions." Please visit our forum to give us feedback, or our Help Center to get help using Google Maps Navigation.

Get mobile coupons through Local Search

Since we launched printable coupons on Google Maps a few years ago, people are increasingly using their mobile phones to find local information when they're away from a computer. With more of you going mobile to search for this information, it makes sense for coupons to go mobile too.

So just in time for the holidays, we've made it easier to find discounts when you're on the go. If a business adds a mobile coupon to its Google Local Business Center listing, you'll be able to access it from your mobile device. Just go to google.com on your phone and search for a local business. When you land on its Place Page, you'll see any coupons or discounts that might be available. Then simply show the participating business the coupon, right from your phone, to redeem the offer.

We hope you find these mobile coupons useful and that they help you save money, trees (fewer printed coupons), and your hands (from paper cuts) when you're on the go. Mobile coupons are currently only available in the US. For more information check out the Lat Long Blog.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Google News for mobile

At Google, we are committed to giving you a consistent user experience across products and devices, and we really value the feedback you've given us about Google News for mobile. Today we're excited to announce a completely new Google News offering for iPhone, Android, and Palm Pre users. (We already offer a mobile-optimized version of Google News for other phones, such as Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and S60, and more improvements will be coming to those in the near future)

This new version provides the same richness and personalization on your phone as Google News provides on desktop. Our new homepage displays more stories, sources, and images while keeping a familiar look and feel. Also, you can now reach your favorite sections, discover new ones, find articles and play videos in fewer clicks. If you are an existing Google News reader on desktop, you will find that all of your personalizations are honored in this mobile version too.

Google News for mobile is now available in 29 languages and 70 editions.

So pick up your mobile phone and point your browser to http://news.google.com to catch up on news anytime and anywhere. Feel free to check out more information or leave feedback in our Help Center.




Ankit "Chunky" Gupta and Alok Goel, Mobile News Team

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An update to Google Earth for the iPhone

Cross-posted from the Google Lat Long blog

Just over one year ago, we unveiled Google Earth for the iPhone and iPod touch. Google Earth quickly became one of the most popular applications in the App Store, and after only six months, was the second most-downloaded free application overall. A big thank-you to the over 220,000 users have taken the time to write a review!

Today, we're proud to announce version 2.0 of Google Earth for iPhone. We've added some exciting new features, including the ability to view maps that you create on your desktop computer right from your iPhone, explore the app in new languages, and improved icon selection and performance.

View your maps wherever you go

Have you ever wanted to view a custom map with Google Earth on your iPhone? Well, now you can. By logging in directly to your Google Maps account, you can view the same maps that you or others have created, using the My Maps interface. Maybe you're on a trip and want to see where Tony Wheeler, the co-founder of Lonely Planet, most likes to travel. Or perhaps you're walking around looking for a restaurant and you want to see where world-famous chef Ferran Adrià likes to eat. All you have to do is click "Save to My Maps", open Earth on the iPhone, log in with the same account information, and voilà, you have your same collection of My Maps right in your pocket.



It's fun to create and view your own maps as well. Here's an example of a map that I created that shows the two attempts my friends and I made to summit Mount Ritter in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. As you can see, we didn't quite make it (the red line is the intended route, and the blue and green lines are our 2008 and 2009 attempts, respectively). Next year we'll get it for sure! I created this map by using the desktop version of Google Earth to read the tracks directly out of my GPS device, saving the resulting tracks as a KML file, and then importing into My Maps in Google Maps. You can learn more about My Maps here.

Browse businesses, photos, and places more easily
Browsing the world from the palm of your hand can be a thrilling experience, and viewing photos, Wikipedia articles, and place information is a great way to discover new parts of the globe. With the latest version of Google Earth for iPhone, we've made this even easier. Now, when you touch an icon, a small glow appears under your finger to let you know which icon you have picked. If your finger touches more than one icon, you'll be taken to a list of all icons, so you can select the one you are interested in.



New languages
We've also included new languages in this release, bringing the total to 31 languages from the original 18. The complete list of languages is: English (U.S), English (UK), French (France), German, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Arabic, Thai, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Malaysian, Romanian, Slovak, and Croatian.

We hope you enjoy our latest release. Please note that the app will be rolling out around the world over the next twenty-four hours - if you don't see it immediately, be sure to check back soon. You can download Google Earth for iPhone here.

Peter Birch, Product Manager, Google Earth

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Google Latitude, now with Location History & Alerts

Since the launch of Google Latitude earlier this year, we've been getting a lot of feature requests. One of the most popular ideas was for Latitude to keep track of location history, allowing you (but not your friends) to see where you've been at any point in time. Another popular idea was to notify you when you're near your Latitude friends so you can easily meet up or grab lunch. Today, we're happy to introduce both Google Location History and Google Location Alerts (beta) to let you do even more with Latitude.

Google Location History
Whether you're taking a road trip across the country, backpacking across Europe, or just going out for a night on the town, it's fascinating to look back at where you went, and for how long you stayed. Enable Google Location History to store, view, and manage your past Latitude locations. You can visualize your history on Google Maps and Earth or play back a recent trip in order. Of course, you can always delete selected history or your entire location history at any time. While working on Location History, I found myself going back in time to discover things that would have otherwise been impossible. For example, I stopped at an awesome BBQ place on my way back from Lake Tahoe this summer, but I couldn't remember the name when my friend was asking about it a few months later. I pulled up my location history for that weekend, found where I was stationary on the drive home, and the restaurant name showed up in Google Maps: Drooling Dog Bar BQ. Check it out below:



Google Location Alerts (beta)
People also want to know when their friends were nearby, but it's not always convenient to keep checking Latitude to see if a friend has recently shown up near you. After working on this for a while, we realized it wasn't as straightforward as sending a notification every time Latitude friends were near each other. Imagine that you're Latitude friends with your roommate or co-workers. It would get pretty annoying to get a text message every single time you walked in the door at home or pulled into work. To avoid this, we decided to make Location Alerts smarter by requiring that you also enable Location History. Using your past location history, Location Alerts can recognize your regular, routine locations and not create alerts when you're at places like home or work. Alerts will only be sent to you and any nearby friends when you're either at an unusual place or at a routine place at an unusual time. Keep in mind that it may take up to a week to learn your "unusual" locations and start sending alerts.

To enable these features, go to google.com/latitude/apps. You must first be an existing Google Latitude user; if you're not already, sign up here. You must explicitly enable each feature, and of course, you can disable it at any time. Learn more in the Help Center about Location Alerts and Location History, suggest and vote on ideas in the Mobile Product Ideas page, or report problems in the Mobile Help Forum.Chris Lambert, Software Engineer, Google Mobile

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Escape to Paradise on Your Phone

Today we're excited to announce the launch of new imagery in Street View. Now when you're daydreaming about exotic vacations (or even planning them!), you can pull up Street View in Google Maps for mobile and explore new locations in Hawaii and Mexico. Hawaii marks the inclusion of all 50 states in the US for Street View coverage. You can check to see where there's parking by Sunset Beach, find benches as you're walking on Waikiki Beach for a peaceful end to your day, or explore Playa del Carmen without a passport. To learn more about this update, and about how to vote for the next location our Street View trike will visit, check out the blog post on Google LatLong. The latest Street View imagery shows automatically in all clients, but to get the latest version of Google Maps for mobile visit m.google.com/maps from your phone. For help with Street View on Google Maps for mobile, check out the Help Center.

Posted by Effie Seiberg, Google Mobile Marketing

Saturday, November 7, 2009

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NYC subway maps in your pocket with Google Maps for mobile

Hey New Yorkers looking for somewhere to celebrate the Yankees' 27th World Series title? It's now easier than ever to carry a NYC subway map in your pocket.

A few weeks ago we announced the Layers feature on Google Maps for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian S60. Today we added a layer that overlays NYC subway routes on a map. We hope this will help you quickly navigate the New York City subway system. To see this new layer while viewing a map of New York City, just click the Layers menu and then turn on the Transit Lines layer.

Of course, you can also get step-by-step public transit directions by using the "Get Directions" menu, and then selecting the public transit icon. You can learn more about updates to Google Transit in the United States and Europe on the Google LatLong Blog.

To download the latest version of Google Maps for mobile with Layers, visit m.google.com/maps from your smartphone.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Get Google Mobile App at Best Buy stores

If you're a regular reader of the Google Mobile Blog, then you've probably installed or accessed our mobile applications on your phone at one point or another. You may have even shown our applications to your friends and explained how to get them. Or perhaps you've been the recipient of some helpful mobile tips from a friend of yours. In any case, you may have noticed that one of the best ways to discover and get new applications for your phone is through a face-to-face dialog with another person.

We're happy to announce today that we've partnered with Best Buy Mobile to make Google Mobile App available through Best Buy stores in the US. Google Mobile App lets you search by voice and with My Location, and gives you quick access to Google Search, Maps, Gmail, and more. Of course, Google Mobile App is free whether you get it yourself from m.google.com or from Best Buy Mobile. But the difference is that you now have the option to get some help installing the app or to see a live demo of what the application can do. Just go to the mobile department at your nearest Best Buy store and talk to an associate. If you have a BlackBerry, Windows Phone, or S60 phone, they can help install Google Mobile App on your phone. And if you're in the market to buy a new phone, they will help you install the application as part of their Walk Out Working program.

Find out more about this opportunity and to see a map of the nearest Best Buy to you. As always, feel free to leave us comments below or in our forum.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Introducing Google Analytics for Mobile Apps

Last week, we introduced expanded mobile reporting features in Google Analytics. To help developers, this launch includes features that make it easy to see how people are using specific parts of their iPhone and Android applications. The same Google Analytics reports that provide insights into website traffic and engagement are now available for mobile apps.

As with websites, there are two basic categories of user interaction you can track: pageviews and events. Since mobile apps don't contain HTML pages, developers simply determine when their apps should trigger pageview requests. Google Analytics then aggregates this data in the Content reports to display the number of visits, session length and bounce rates. The data gives insight into how your users interacted with the app.
Developers can also track visitor actions that don't correspond directly to pageviews using Event Tracking. These user actions can include views of embedded videos, button clicks, downloads and more. App developers can then use this data to understand which features are most popular and inform decisions about which features should be promoted or prioritized for further development.
Redfin, an online brokerage for buying and selling homes, recently tested Google Analytics on their mobile application. Watch this video to learn more about their experience:



To get started using Google Analytics to understand and optimize how people use your iPhone or Android mobile app, check out the SDK and technical documentation.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Google Search by voice travels the world, finds Nokia, learns Chinese

(cross-posted with Official Google Blog)

Google Search by voice has grown up quickly. Some might say that search by voice has matured from a toddler to a tween. It's certainly been traveling across the English-speaking world and getting better at understanding a range of accents, from the US, UK, India, and Australia. Today it's taking another big step — we're happy to announce that Google search by voice is available for Nokia S60 phones, and now understands Mandarin Chinese.

Nokia S60 phones are popular around the world. If you have an Nseries or Eseries phone such as the N95 or E71, you're using S60. Many of these phones have 12-digit keypads — good for making calls, but not so easy when you need to type a few words. Many of you have asked if we could build our search by voice feature for these phones, and we've been working on this feature for a while.

The new version of Google Mobile App places a shortcut to Google search on your Nokia phone's home screen, allowing you to search using your voice or by typing. You can search for anything — from "movie times", to "fish 'n chips", to "masala dosa." It doesn't matter if you're in London or Bangalore: we'll use your location to give you nearby results. And Google Mobile App shows search results in the application, so you don't have to wait for a web browser to launch to get an answer.

Although it has taken a little while to get this release ready, we have been planning the launch for some time as you can see from this footage from the archives.



Up until now voice search has only been available in English, but the new version of Google Mobile App for Nokia S60 devices works for Mandarin speakers, too. We're really proud of the work we've done with Mandarin speech recognition, both because it's the most spoken language in the world, and because of the engineering challenge. To get Mandarin speech recognition to work, we had to learn a lot about this fascinating language — the differences between traditional and simplified Chinese, its tonal characteristics, automatic segmentation of text into words, pinyin representations of Chinese characters, sandhi rules, the different accents and languages in China, unicode representations of Chinese character sets...the list goes on and on.

Mandarin speakers can now search by voice for complex queries like 清华大学附近的水煮鱼 (which translates to "water-boiled fish near Tsinghua University"). Although this only works on the Nokia S60 at the moment, we're working on adding support for Mandarin speech recognition to our products on other mobile platforms, such as Android and iPhone. And bear in mind that this is a first version of our system in Mandarin, and it might not be as polished as our English version. For example, if you have a strong southern Chinese accent, it might not work as well as for people with a Beijing accent. However, our system will improve over time, so please give it a try!


Google Mobile App in Mandarin Chinese

Note that the application is for version 3 of Nokia S60 - more recent phones running version 5 (touch screen) are not yet supported.

To download the new version of Google Mobile App on your Nokia S60 phone, visit m.google.com from your phone's browser. For questions and support, visit our Help Forum.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Announcing Google Maps Navigation for Android 2.0

(cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)

Since 2005, millions of people have relied on Google Maps for mobile to get directions on the go. However, there's always been one problem: Once you're behind the wheel, a list of driving directions just isn't that easy to use. It doesn't tell you when your turn is coming up. And if you miss a turn? Forget it, you're on your own.

Today we're excited to announce the next step for Google Maps for mobile: Google Maps Navigation (Beta) for Android 2.0 devices.

This new feature comes with everything you'd expect to find in a GPS navigation system, like 3D views, turn-by-turn voice guidance and automatic rerouting. But unlike most navigation systems, Google Maps Navigation was built from the ground up to take advantage of your phone's Internet connection.

Here are seven features that are possible because Google Maps Navigation is connected to the Internet:

The most recent map and business data
When you use Google Maps Navigation, your phone automatically gets the most up-to-date maps and business listings from Google Maps — you never need to buy map upgrades or update your device. And this data is continuously improving, thanks to users who report maps issues and businesses who activate their listings with Google Local Business Center.

Search in plain English
Google Maps Navigation brings the speed, power and simplicity of Google search to your car. If you don't know the address you're looking for, don't worry. Simply enter the name of a business, a landmark or just about anything into the search box, and Google will find it for you. Then press "Navigate", and you're on your way.

Search by voice
Typing on a phone can be difficult, especially in the car, so with Google Maps Navigation, you can say your destination instead. Hold down the search button to activate voice search, then tell your phone what you want to do (like "Navigate to Pike Place in Seattle"), and navigation will start automatically.

Traffic view
Google Maps Navigation gets live traffic data over the Internet. A traffic indicator light in the corner of the screen glows green, yellow or red, depending on the current traffic conditions along your route. If there's a jam ahead of you, you'll know. To get more details, tap the light to zoom out to an aerial view showing traffic speeds and incidents ahead. And if the traffic doesn't look good, you can choose an alternate route.

Search along route
For those times when you're already on the road and need to find a business, Google Maps Navigation searches along your route to give you results that won't take you far from your path. You can search for a specific business by name or by type, or you can turn on popular layers, such as gas stations, restaurants or parking.

Satellite view
Google Maps Navigation uses the same satellite imagery as Google Maps on the desktop to help you get to your destination. Turn on the satellite layer for a high-resolution, 3D view of your upcoming route. Besides looking cool, satellite view can help you make sense of complicated maneuvers.

Street View
If you want to know what your next turn looks like, double-tap the map to zoom into Street View, which shows the turn as you'll see it, with your route overlaid. And since locating an address can sometimes be tricky, we'll show you a picture of your destination as you approach the end of your route, so you'll know exactly what to look for.

Since there's nothing quite like seeing the product in action, we made this video to demonstrate a real-life example:




The first phone to have Google Maps Navigation and Android 2.0 is the Droid from Verizon. Google Maps Navigation is initially available in the United States. And like other Google Maps features, Navigation is free.

Click here to learn more and browse a gallery of product screenshots. Take Google Maps Navigation for a spin, and bring Internet-connected GPS navigation with you in your car.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Iterative Web App: Auto-expanding Compose Boxes

On April 7th, we announced a new version of Gmail for mobile for iPhone and Android-powered devices. Among the improvements was a complete redesign of the web application's underlying code which allows us to more rapidly develop and release new features that users have been asking for, as explained in our first post. We'd like to introduce The Iterative Webapp, a series where we will continue to release features for Gmail for mobile. Today: Auto-expanding compose boxes

When composing a message on my phone, I really want to see as much of my draft as possible and make use of all the available screen space. One of my biggest gripes is a fixed-size compose box that restricts me to only a couple lines of visible text when my screen still has room to display more lines.

Today we launched auto-expanding compose boxes in Gmail for iPhone. This makes composing longer messages much easier since you're able to see more of the text you've typed. Just keep typing until you get near the bottom and then the compose box will magically expand by a few lines! As an added bonus, for all those iPhone users out there, auto-expanding compose boxes take away the need to press and hold to scroll with the magnifying glass! Instead, you can flick to scroll, much like you would normally do to scroll up and down a webpage. (On Android-powered devices, this hasn't been much of a problem, thanks to the trackball.)



















While we're on the subject of making it easier to view content in Gmail, one more bit of news. We've been working on ways to make inline images show up in your messages, and you can now get some of those images to display by following these steps.

To try out, visit gmail.com on your iPhone/iPod touch (OS 2.2.1 or above, US English only) and create a home screen link for easy access.



by Casey Ho, Software Engineer, Google Mobile

Friday, October 23, 2009

Google Custom Search for mobile

Google Custom Search makes it easy for web site owners to add Google-powered search boxes to their sites. Since a rapidly growing percentage of web search traffic originates from smartphones, we're pleased to announce that Google Custom Search now formats search results for mobile phones.

If you own a web site and add a Google Custom Search box to it, when your users access the site on an Android-powered phone, iPhone, iPod Touch, or Palm Pre, they will can see optimized search results formatted for these devices. When they search on your web site, they are can be redirected to a Google-hosted Custom Search mobile results page created specifically for your Custom Search engine. If you'd like to serve these mobile results from your own web site, you can host your own version of the mobile Custom Search home page.



You can test this out on your phone right now. Here are a few samples: search for user-generated content (e.g., search for "zakumi") from sites like Wikipedia or Knol, or look for more information on Custom Search (e.g., search for "promotion"). As you can see, Custom Mobile Search results can match the look and feel of your own website, and we've enabled interactive features, such as label tabs for navigation, as well as promotions. Look for more features coming soon, too. For more information on Custom Search, and more details on the mobile configuration, visit the Custom Search blog.

Let us know how this works on your favorite smartphone.

Update on 10/23 @ 9:06 AM: Note that some configuration is required for the mobile-formatted results to be shown.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Layers come to Google Maps for BlackBerry

We're excited to announce that version 3.2 of Google Maps for mobile is now available for BlackBerry. This release contains many of the same features we recently launched on Windows Mobile and S60, including Layers.

Layers make it easy to view various types of information on your map and are especially helpful in situations when you're traveling somewhere new. For example, you can turn on the Wikipedia layer to read entries about nearby places, then use the transit lines layer to help map out a route. Or you can use the My Maps feature of Google Maps to create a collection of places you're planning to visit on your trip and then use Google Maps for mobile to access it from the road. You can also turn on the Google Latitude layer to see your friends' locations.

My coworker Mat is a big fan of Layers and made the below video to show you how he uses the feature. Check out the video, and get the latest version of Google Maps for your phone by visiting m.google.com/maps from your phone's browser.



Upload photos to Panoramio straight from your iPhone!

Panoramio is a community of people who enjoy sharing photos of places with the rest of the world. These photos are surfaced in Google Earth and Google Maps as photo layers, where millions of users can see them.

Panoramio has just launched an application that makes it easy to upload photos to Panoramio straight from your iPhone. Read about it on the Panoramio Blog. Also, we're working hard on the Android version, so keep an eye out for it!






Posted by Fernando Delgado, Product Manager, Panoramio Team

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Make your web pages and applications Go Mobile too

We wouldn't be Google if we had a whole week of tips and tricks about all things mobile without giving a nod to the technical crowd. To conclude our week, we're asking you to "Go Mobile!" by making the mobile web faster. Read our article for a collection of best practices, tips, and resources for mobile web developers, part of our initiative at code.google.com/speed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Following a marathon-and-a-half with Latitude

A few months ago, I started something crazy. Like a lot of Googlers, I work in Mountain View, CA but live in San Francisco, 37 miles away. When I moved to SF, I got hooked on the local cycling craze, and I fell in with a group that cycles to commute. Early on, biking to work was something audacious. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to do something that felt audacious again. So I decided to run to work to raise money for Teach for America.

Now 37 miles is a lot -- about a marathon and a half. I'm thinking it'll take me about 6 hours. For the past 4 months I've been training, and now finally, tomorrow is the big day! Throughout the training, lots of people have said they'd love to see the run, but oddly, none of them were up for coming along. So, I decided to do the next best thing. I'm going to take my Latitude-enabled phone with me, and let people follow along from home. I've been blogging about my training and I've embedded the Google public location badge on my blog for the big day. This badge lets me make my Latitude location public and share my progress on the run with anyone who views my blog, even if we're not Latitude friends.

So, if you're up tomorrow, October 16, at 2:30 AM Pacific Daylight Time (or anytime over the next 6 hours or so), check out my progress and see if I make it into work on time. I could use the virtual encouragement!



Updated: I made it! 6 hours, 90 ounces of water, 3 energy gels and 1 banana later. Well, time to get back to work. Hope you all get our and run today!

Posted by Matt Ghering, Googler

Want to reach customers? Go Mobile!

As we continue our week of all things mobile, we wanted to offer some tips and tricks to any marketers, advertisers, agencies, or businesses who want to use mobile as a platform to reach their customers. For ideas on how to work mobile into marketing campaigns, check out our post on the Agency blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You Ask, We Answer. Go Mobile!

This week, as part of our celebration of all things mobile, we posed you this question - what do you want to know? And you told us! After two days, 519 people submitted 133 questions and cast 4,607 votes. We saw some common themes in your questions, so we grouped several together to address some of the most popular topics.

Google Voice
We received an overwhelming number of Google Voice questions - 3 out of the top 5 questions were about Google Voice - and we're happy you're so enthusiastic about and interested in this new product! As far as making Voice available to more users, we began giving current users the ability to invite friends and family on Tuesday. We will continue sending out invitations to people who have requested them on our website, and we plan to make additional friends and family invitations available in the future. For those of you outside the US, we plan to make Google Voice available internationally; however, we don't have specifics to share at this time. As for new features, we're certainly evaluating which highly requested features we can add to improve Google Voice, such as number portability, though we don't have anything to announce quite yet. Keep up on the latest with Google Voice by following their blog at http://googlevoiceblog.blogspot.com/.

Googlers' favorite phones
You asked us which phones are the most favored here on the Google mobile team. The answer's not particularly juicy, but it's honest: every phone! You'll see Googlers walking around campus carrying just about every phone under the stars, including multiple Android-powered devices, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Nokia, etc. And the Mobile team takes it up a notch. It's quite common for us to carry multiple phones at any given time, and as we sit down in a meeting, we often see someone unload five different phones from their pockets onto the table. Don't have the right one handy? We just head to our "Sky Lab" and grab one of the over 800 phones available. By using lots of different devices, we can make sure we're designing products that work well for you, no matter which device YOU are using. We understand that the phone someone chooses to use everyday varies with personal preference, but we generally prefer phones with great browsers and fast performance. Of course, it never hurts to have the newest toy on the block.

Google Wave for mobile
We're still early in Wave's preview, but you can currently access Google Wave on both Android-powered devices and the iPhone by pointing the phone's browser to wave.google.com. Please note that we're still in preview phase, and as we've mentioned before, you may experience occasional downtime or run into some bugs with Wave on your mobile phone, similar to when you access Google Wave from your computer.

Web vs. App
We're often asked why certain products, such as Google Reader, are available as a web application, accessible through the browser, and not a native, downloadable application. At Google, we believe in the power of the web to give us the flexibility to build one app that can run in the browser on multiple phones, rather than developing a different app for every platform. With more capable mobile browsers and technologies like HTML5 and Gears, web apps deliver a great experience because they closely mirror the desktop web in overall look, feel and functionality. They also let us iterate fast and add lots of cool features quickly without having to build from scratch each feature for various devices and platforms. Of course in some cases, investing in native applications for multiple platforms make sense. For example, with Google Maps for mobile, the native app lets us get your location or quickly process lots of data, such as map tiles. That said, new browsers and faster phones are allowing for more powerful web apps - such as Google Maps on Palm Pre or Google Latitude on iPhone - that can also get your location and that are almost as fast as native apps. In the end, there are a lot of users out there on a lot of phones, and we develop our products to put the best experience possible in your hands and your pockets.

In some cases, such as Gmail for certain phones, we offer both a native and web app because we want users to have choice in deciding how they access their information. We believe that both methods - web apps and native apps - offer a rich mobile experience, and we are committed to providing the best possible experience to users, regardless of the underlying development technology.

Mobile Product Roadmap
You also asked lots of great questions around product and feature development and availability. As we mentioned on the original Q & A page, we aren't able to provide forward-looking information on features or products, but we love your enthusiasm for ideas around how we can make existing Google Mobile products more useful or just make more Google Mobile products period. We're always working to improve all of our mobile products and will continue to do so with our eyes and ears open for your ideas and feedback. So keep it coming in the Google Mobile Blog, the Help Forum, and especially the Product Ideas page!

Go Mobile!