Weekly Web App Review: AOL Search for iPhone

aol_search.jpg Looking for an alternative search for your iPhone? Though not “built in”, AOL’s mobile search optimized for iPhone is surprisingly good. Let’s take a look at what makes it so good!

It’s Pretty

aol_movies.jpgWhen you search in Google, specifically Google Mobile for iPhone, you have a neat feature: it gives you suggestions as you type. After that, I don’t think that Google mobile does anything specifically well, other than meaningful searches. This is what sets AOL search apart from its competition, it displays the results well. Its closest competitor, Yahoo One Search renders poorly on the iPhone in my opinion, the fonts are too large among other issues. The AOL search experience feels right.

Information is broken into sections. Let’s see how a simple search for “movies” is rendered after I have set my default location.

Searching for “movies”

aol_moviefone.jpgAfter typing in “movies” you are given an immediate area to see search results. It starts to list theatres from closest to me to farther away. The results for movies display the some very cool iPhone-ified icons for calling (a Green icon. You tap it, it calls the number) and maps (it displays MapQuest instead of Google Maps… what?). These are nice touches and really make the search FEEL like it was made for the iPhone.

Once you click on a theater, it takes you to Moviefone, another iPhone optimized site. There is standard movie fanfare here except for a very unexpected piece of functionality. At the bottom of a specific movie, there is an “Invite” button. When tapped, it launches the iPhone’s Mail app and gives you the follow text:

  • Subject: Wanna go see XYZ (2008)
  • Body: Wanna go see XYZ (2008)
  • Link to movie

You can add your own nuances of course, but this is a great way to utilize the Mail app.

Everything Else

aol_expand.jpg

The rest of search is broken into sections such as Web, Images, News and Local. You can collapse and expand these sections to meet your needs, again really cool.

Conclusion

The only real disappointment is when I wanted driving directions, it did not take me to the Google Maps application on my iPhone, and instead it took me to AOL’s own tool for maps and directions, MapQuest. I know you don’t want to advertise for the “other guy” but when you go through the trouble of making a specific app for the iPhone, you should exploit all of its features and bite the bullet. I can’t say the experience of using MapQuest was horrible, but without a doubt, the map experience in the iPhone Google Maps app is way better.

I think I will be using AOL Search for iPhone more and more. I like its speed, aesthetics and information. It is all done very well and I look forward to seeing what other surprises AOL has in store!

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Look and Feel: 4
  • Navigation: 4
  • Features: 5
  • Reliability: 5

Overall: 4.5

Pros:

  • Good interface
  • Seamless integration with AOL Services
  • Loads quickly
  • Search results are broken down by section: business, photos, etc
  • Email invite feature for movies; innovative!

Cons:

  • It’s AOL. Just kidding :-)
  • Having to use MapQuest instead of the iPhone’s Google Maps application

Here is a video tour showing all of AOL's Search functionality on the iPhone, enjoy.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Chad Garrett

Software trainer, blogger and mobile technology enthusiast living in the suburban Midwest.

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Weekly Web App Review: AOL Search for iPhone

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