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.