Better Google Voice functionality coming soon to Google Search app for iPhone

Google has announced they're updating their voice-powered Google Search app for iPhone and iPad with functionality that sounds like it's much more competitive with Apple's own voice-powered service, Siri.

In the latest version of the Google Search App for iOS and Android, not only can you say your question out loud, but your search app can speak your answer right back to you. And, using Google's Knowledge Graph, your search app gives you smarter answers loud and clear.

While Google's original iOS apps were disappointing native wrappers around web views, they've really stepped up their game lately with the new Google+ app and improvements to the still middling Gmail app. Google is also reportedly working on an iOS YouTube app to replace the built-in YouTube app that's been removed in iOS 6 beta 4, and it's widely expected they be making a Google Maps app for iOS, or refreshed Google Earth app, since Apple is replacing the Google-powered built-in Maps app with a new, Apple and TomTom-powered iOS 6 Maps app.

Making Google Search competitive with Siri will be important for Google as Apple continues to remove them from the built-in systems, and intermediate and broker search traffic -- and the all-important user data that comes with it -- away from Google.

Since most users stick to defaults and built-in functionality, and App Store apps require users to learn about them and go to the trouble of downloading and manually launching them each time they want to use them, even an improved Google Search isn't on equal footing with Siri, but at this point, Google's business model needs every iOS user they can hold on to. The only way to do that is by providing compelling apps and services that make users seek them out.

Sadly, the App Store doesn't provide the the type of system-level access Google would need to build something on the level of Google Now for iOS -- something that proactively, almost pseudo-precognitively finds out information for you, but what they're doing on Android should certainly keep Apple on their toes.

Look for the new Google Search app on the App Store soon. Meanwhile, here's a link for the current version, and a video of what's to come...

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Better Google Voice functionality coming soon to Google Search app for iPhone

8 Comments

Thats an odd thing to say since they don't do all the same things and the new version you are saying is better isn't even out yet.
Troll much?

I have a iPhone 4S and I have a nexus 7 so how am I a troll... Apple fan boys can't take criticism smh.

The interesting part of google now - and the part that should worry Apple - is neither the searching nor the voice, but its ability to prompt and anticipate, which needs the sort of system level access Apple is never going to provide. It is one thing to pull up directions to your next appointment on your phone; it is quite another if your phone gives you directions and estimates time to your next appointment with current traffic conditions before you even ask for it. That is what attentive human assistants do. Whether you find it helpful or just creepy, there is no denying it is very powerful.

That will never come to iOS, but if, on Android, Google 1) makes it work consistently as advertised, 2) resists the temptation to overload it as an ad conduit, 3) demonstrates a minimal battery penalty - all big ifs - that becomes a pretty big feature gap Apple will have to address.

I didn't mean to imply Apple can't do this -- I am sure they are working on it as we speak, and have been for a while. I think this level of data aggregation is more Google's bread-and-butter than Apple's, but Apple certainly has enough talent to pull it off.

Apple should only worry because this is one of the first really killer (IMHO) features that Google has beaten Apple to the finish line. While Apple has an outstanding track record of being second-to-market-but-executing-so-much-better-than-the-first-guy, Google to their credit seems to have put much more thought into Now that Apple's opportunity to do that seems narrower than in the past. I hope Now ends up that good, and I hope it worries Apple so much that it spurs them even higher.

Of course, my darkhorse hope is that Google learned from Apple, and with Google Now somehow applied for absurdly broad patents of their own, for things like "aggregation of personal data from different sources to provide contextual information wirelessly," and blocks Apple from selling their implementation. Not because I particularly want to see Apple blocked, but it looks like we have to trigger Patent Armageddon in order to move past the silliness of the current system.

Hopefully google adds the uri links to open maps in their new maps app and vice versa for chrome and YouTube etc.