Google on the iPhone: Fast and Fluid

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 | 7:00 AM

Posted by

We all know that using the web on mobile phones can be a challenge sometimes. Compared to our personal computers, the screens are smaller, it's more difficult to navigate and enter text, the network connections are slower, and the browsers lack many of the features we've become accustomed to. I deal with this every day as both a developer and a user of mobile web applications. So you can imagine how excited I was when the iPhone launched with a large touch screen, Wi-Fi, and a full-blown Safari web browser!

I started thinking about how to use AJAX technology to improve Google on the iPhone. I set out to create an application that would preload my favorite Google products and allow me to switch between them instantly. I wanted web results as well as image, local, and news results without having to repeat my search. I wanted to check Gmail and my news feeds in Google Reader without having to load a new page every time. I also wanted Google Suggest to save me time typing queries on the virtual keyboard.

I created a prototype and showed it to some fellow Googlers. After that, things started moving pretty quickly. A few weeks (and a few gallons of mint tea) later, I had an improved version which Googlers throughout the company were using on their iPhones (it works great on the iPod Touch too). Now we want to share it with everyone.

Our guiding principles were "fast" and "fluid." We think we've achieved both, thanks to some AJAX magic made possible by the iPhone's Safari browser. To try it out, just go to www.google.com on your iPhone.

We want to know what you think! You can post your comments below or submit specific questions on our discussion board. We hope you'll like it.


83 comments:

Simon said...

I want it! So badly!
I'm using an iPod touch from Italy... and it's just giving me the normal Italian page... Am I doing something wrong?

rodrakic said...

The new interface looks great, but it will not accept my login. (which work s fine on the PC browser.)

glitch?

Peter said...

This is absolutely great !

I noticed a few glitches though:
- my phone redirected me from www.goole.com to www.google.nl/m (I´m in The Netherlands)
The use of www.google.com/webhp?hl=en did the trick (hope this helps other users as well)
- When I uses the links at the top (Home/Gmail?calendar/Reader/More) after selecting "More" I´ve got trouble using the links for "Home", "Calendar" and "Reader". Try it.
Somehow it seems the screen isn´t cleared, because when (after you´ve selected "more") you select
"Calendar" or "Reader" and scroll down everything seems fine.
- I´d like to see Blogsearch included with the options at "Home" and Google Groups included at "More"


Keep up the great work !

Cheers,
Peter Huesken

Dent said...

Wow, this is much nicer than before! Nice job! Now, how about cajoling Apple into getting My Location in the GMaps App?

A Swami said...

Is this available for the Android emulator as well? If not, when will it be available for Android?

yaromir said...

It's great as an idea, but not good for Google's mobile business as you create fragmentation and the need to support different implementations for different devices, given you deploy it as Google's official service. I would rather expect a unified approach from Google to provide the same UI and feel across all mobile devices or at least the same services (I guess Android's goal is exactly that). I would expect a single aggregation page for all my Google services and RSS feeds for my mobile phone. The right way to do it is to make sure that iGoogle page on PC is the same page when I access it from my mobile. Right now it is not the same. iGoogle on mobile is crippled and a lot of services and RSS feeds are missing from the original iGoogle page. That is simply not how it should work. It should be identical disregarding from what device you're accessing it. I'd really appreciate any comments on that.

Rick said...

OK, this looks nice but there are two bugs, one of which has reduced enjoyability of using Google on my iPhone:

1) The new Google mobile for iPhone breaks the mobile version of Google search using the native Safari app's search box. I had this configured to use the mobile version of Google search, now this has defaulted back to the desktop version of the page and I can no longer find the option to make it display the mobile version.

2) Google Reader for iPhone, when used from the combined Google app does not open the original web page correctly zoomed on the iPhone. The page is zoomed to the width of the Google menu bar, and the page cannot be shrunk. (I have Google Reader setup to open the original post without reformatting for mobile.)

Bug #1 degrades the overall experience of using Google on my iPhone, as I will continue to use Safari's native search box.

Bug #2 makes me want to use Google Reader directly without going through the Google home page as this method is not usable.

Other than these two bugs, I do like the new interface and applaud Google's dedication to making its services work well on the iPhone.

Hugo said...

Great. thanks so much for the new app. I have some feedback already:

- the discussion group doesn't have an appropriate section to ask questions / submit feedback about the overall UI. only for certain specific services (Search, Maps, Gmail, ...)

- it would be great to be able to choose which services are listed in the top menu bar. For iPhone users, Gmail might not be so useful if they already have it set up in the iPhone Mail application. Each user might have another service they'd like to get up there (e.g. for me: Google Docs). I'd rather have Gmail under the "more" section, so I can access my Gmail contacts when needed.

- The Reader button at the top opens the Google reader mobile page, but doesn't remove the double menu bar. Compared to opening the Google Reader page directly from a bookmark, this means that almost half the height of the screen is now wasted (no feeds displayed in this area). Also, the selection [All items|Feeds|Tags] appears twice, on two different lines... The use of real estate should be improved here.

Otherwise, this is great!

Caspar said...

wow, I wish there was something like this for Windows Mobile 6 devices (like my HTC Touch).

Stanley said...

It looks great! But I really wish Google will move Contacts out of Gmail, and make it a universal address book with phone dialing capabilities.

Chad said...

Great work guys! I would love the ability to email a link to a story from Google Reader using the iPhone's mail app. i.Bloglines has it... and it works well.

Spinoza said...

This is fantastic, and wicked fast. The killer app for iPhone, thanks!

Tom said...

Simon,

You're probably doing nothing wrong. Google serves its pages in the language of the country in which you're located. If I understand your point, you are using the phone in Italy,right? I had the same issues in Sweden and the Netherlands last year; it even served up Google Maps and Docs and Spreadsheets in Swedish and Dutch. I think there's a workaround, but I didn't take the time to figure it out; I sort of just learned compu-Dutch for a week. Good luck.

lfalin said...

Looks great, but there is a problem with the news page.

Once you click on an article, there is no way to go back. You can't use the iPhone's back button for some reason, and there is no UI button for backing up.

ValkRaider said...

I have the same problems as Rick and Ifalin.

And I have to be one of the dissenters, and say that I dislike the new version. Google mobile worked so much better and cleaner before.

Maybe if it gets polished up it will be better, but as it is now I can barely use Google on my iPhone anymore.

My problems (first two are the as mentioned before):

1. When I go to read articles on "reader" it is severely zoomed in and makes it impossible to read the article, and will not zoom out.

2. Also in "reader" There is no way to go "back" from looking at RSS articles and looking at the RSS list without going all the way to the main reader page, which loses the "spot" you were at.

3. Many of my "mark these articles as read" actions are not "sticking". I will click "mark these as read" and it goes back to the list like it worked OK. But the next time I come in to Google Reader it will have some of the articles back. This happens probably 40% of the time.

4. Some times when I go to google and it tries to load the new interface the progress bar loads about 2/3 of the way across the screen and then it never finishes loading. Never. Most of the items seem to work OK, but it never loads well.

5. It seems like the whole thing "reloads" sometimes instead of just letting be go back to one of the pages.

6. The thing gets really borked up if my phone goes to sleep (standby) while looking at something. When I come back in nothing works and I have to start over from the beginning.

Anyway, thanks for even working on this sort of thing!

solanginha said...

I m sorry ,I m learnig thanks Solanginha

thomashan said...

great work on consolidating these Google service for easy access on iPhone.

One question I have, was it by design that the back button on the mobile Safari on iPhone no longer works while in this new mobile version? I'm no expert, but I assume it was probably b/c of all the JS?

When I go to GR mobile, I can still use back (which I use sometime due to slow EDGE), but when I'm in GR mobile under this new version, back doesn't work anymore.

TIA

cast42 said...

I'm using an Ipod Touch in Belgium but see the old homepage. Screenshots

Ice said...

Fantastic! I just became even more obsessed with my iPhone.

@cast42: Use www.google.com/webhp?hl=en, it will take you to the english homepage.

One thing I missed was the ability to edit in documents. But it's understandable since Safari isn't even properly supported on the Mac. Which actually makes it impressive that it works as well as it does on the iPhone.

Thumbs up for letting me edit in Notes though!

Sirul said...

What about supporting other mobile webkit browsers as well? I mean, all new nokias s60 phones come with almost the same browser as the iphone so capabilities should be also the same (most dedicated pages for iphone with no browser agent check works on nokia phones) so you should only add this user-agent to the supported list of the iphone interface.

Henning said...

Awesome, just what I needed. One suggestion though:

Why not have a button to add calendar events right at the top of the page (rather than having to scroll all the way through my events all the time).

epyks said...

Hi guys,

seems terrific ! however I don't have the same interface when hitting the url using the iphone, normal ?

guirec

vieuxbenou said...

hi!
I tried it, but on Gmail I don't get the same interface that you show on screenshots ... it looks like the xhtmlmp interface ...

another comment : why "sign in" doesn't disappear or beacome "sign out" after the log in ?

ersouza said...

I can't say I find this faster and more fluid on the iPhone yet. My primary Google App on the iPhone is Reader and there seems to be some screen refresh problems when navigating back and forth between the list of items in a feed and a single item. It seems to hang more frequently. Behavior simply isn't consistent. Sometimes when trying to navigate back from one item to the list of all items in a feed, I'm bounced back to the Google Home (search) page.

Earlier this morning there was redundancy between the new Google Mobile menubar UI and Google Reader's own UI (links for "All Items", "Feeds" and "Tags" were visible in both and took up valuable screen space). This issue appears to have been fixed now.

Refreshing the browser while in a specific app using this new Google Mobile interface relaunches back to Google Home, not the current app you're viewing.

Lots of little oddities with this new interface, making it less reliable than the previous interface ATM.

Thomas said...

So I would have loved this... if I bought my ipod touch right now. However, I loved the mobile igoogle. I loved having my customized home screen, I loved getting 5 different options for every type of search when I searched, it did everything I needed it to do. Now I have no options to change it. I have no homepage. I don't even use google reader and I can't put something more useful up top. When I click more - maps it opens the home page with a double bar. You're on the right track... but way to early to release. There are frustrating bugs and there is no way to change it to be user specific. On a more positive note, I like how fast your gmail and calendar loads. (Give me back my Igoogle home page on the same format and i'll be fine.)

Harjit said...

Thank you Google Mobile Team - The new interface is first class and fast without a doubt! I've noted a few notable exceptions and possible improvements - i use google mobile on the ipod touch--

- i need to click on the gmail or calendar tab to see who i'm signed in as - it should display the signed in account name on the home tab, or the least change signin to signout

- allow users to set their location(s) in the preferences. what happened to google maps, weather, local news, etc...

- instead of more tab, have a drop down that lets you select other google products straight from the home tab

- allow users to convert their favorite google gadgets in igoogle to a tab - i really want this for stocks :) - igoogle isn't very usable on mobile phones yet, it's particularly difficult to browse with the three columns.

- google photos (picasa) doesn't fill up the screen on the iphone/touch when viewing a photo

- gmail contacts tab so we can see who's online - add chat capability

- calendar tab should allow entire month/week view and ability to add events from the main screen - would be cool if we could sync this with the calendar app

- any chance we can create/edit docs in google docs mobile soon?

Thomas said...

Ok. So I didn't play with it this morning and it seems you've already added some links to the page as well as some FAQ's. I found the link to use your old personalized home page. Now that I can still use that i'm excited for what you're working on, because once I can use modules and customize the top bar it will be great. Until then i'll use the boring personalized mobile.
www.google.com/m/i

Roland is running said...

Just the business I love it on my iPod Touch, thanks guys..

What we want now is the ability to sync our Address Book gmail and Google Calandar ad iCal

rhjr said...

These changes are excellent - but there's one major issue that seems to have been neglected.

When you use the Google search bar built into Safari, the default view for the results is *not* Google Mobile. The results show up as a full Google page, as you would see in a desktop browser.

To use Google Mobile, you have to go to Google.com manually (either by typing it in or via a bookmark), which then redirects to Google Mobile.

It would be absolutely wonderful to see this issue fixed. Thanks very much.

Adam said...

I don't suppose it works with Google Apps for Your Domain logins, does it?

TakeMyAdvice said...

It would be great if, when you did a Google search using Safari's search box, that it also gave you this site's formated search results, instead of the classic Google results page

Seth said...

this breaks native iphone search!

it defaults to the full version results page, not the mobile version that i want.

please fix this asap!

Bill Fencken said...

YES. Just what I hoped to see. Next I'd love to see my Google Bookmarks, Contacts and Notebook tabs

consolesforfree said...

if you want a free iphone then visit www.myfreeiphone.co.uk
no contracts and a free iphone.
why pay when free is better?

Maxime E said...

it only work if u have an english google account :/

Brazuca said...

Can I have Google *not* switch languages to Spanish just because I'm in Chile. It is super annoying that if I type "www.google.com" it switches to "www.google.cl". Grrr!!

Xevver said...

I have to agree with many of the comments. While I like the new interface for searching and gmail access, the changes to calendar and reader make both apps unusable. Not being able to get back to the previous screen you were viewing is simply bad Web and User Interface design, which is not something I would have expected from Google. I can only hope Google fixes these issues soon, or gives us back the old page.

Seth said...

this is aweful. I have had to switch to use yahoo for my safari built in search.

I want to get mobile formatted search results from the safari search box. Pictures, phone numbers, and the correct scale....all gone. Fix it please!

McLake said...

For those who are being redirected to their local google pages and have a google account, sign in. In your "settings" change your country to the US. Now you will be redirected to the US page (with its iPhone-y goodness) whenever you are logged in. Note that this may not be the best solution if you need your locale to be correct for other reasons.

solanginha said...

I m new ,I m little thaking ingles,because I brasilian,BRASIL God bless you Solanginha

Byte said...

Why an iPhone interface?

People have been using full screen devices to surf the web using 3G for some time now and have only had the choice of tiny mobile interface or stock over sized interface. Along comes the iPhone and bingo - nice interface.

I currently surf the web on an LG Viewty. It works a treat (esp if you use the Opera browser) but I can only see the stock google front end. Not the new 'everybody loves the iPhone' interface.

What gives? Why not just develop a decent universal large screen mobile device interface?

Ombligotron said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

ValkRaider said...

Reader still has the sizing bug. It is terrible. Is that what you are calling the "viewport" issue? It just plain doesn't work.

This interface is terrible - and I see no comments or posts from Google even mentioning any of these issues.

The back/forward functionality is completely hosed.

The size/viewport issue is still there.

The "search suggestion" functionality is really slow and annoying.

And the worst part is we don't get an option in our settings to turn all this junk off.

I just keep using "google.com/m/i" because IT WORKS. Not like this terrible half baked version they have implemented.

What is the status of this stuff? Are any of these issues being worked on? Are there any plans? I see that a new version of Picasa for the iPhone has been released. Is it as buggy as this one?

Ultron said...

I'm also need to know how I get this new google on my iphone using google apps for my domain! Pleas help!

Robert said...

Why dont you use the google.mobi domain name so it can be used by any cell phone?

Robert said...

The reason I asked you why you don't use the dotmobi standard is that your formatting your page for a small screen. That is exactly what dotmobi is for. Bofa.mobi is a great site for banking fits any screen. With 2 billion phones in use it will be many years before the masses will have of ever an iPhone or equilvalent.

alanr said...

Nice start: Couple 'o bugs:

If I'm searching, and click on a search result, I get a new browser page. But when I go back to the search results they are gone, and I have to retype the search string to continue.

I want to bookmark a search? How do I?

David said...

I can't believe that I can't do basic things like search my through my email with this. Also, it doesn't automatically complete email addresses when I start typing them in.

The standalone gmail application for my Blackberry is 100 times more usefuly.

Too bad.

Gustavo said...

/BeebaitI am wondering how all this is going to shape up for apple, wont it be easy for apple to come-up with a OS that will support all apps in Iphone, where are they on this frontier.

joejf said...

The iPhone version of google mobile does not use my google mobile setting to "Format web pages for your phone".

Also, (and probably related) selecting Preferences in the iPhone mobile version opens the full GMail settings.

Google mobile WAS a life saver for me. As we all know AT&T Edge is slow. The only way to browse was to use google mobile and have google format the page. This is impossible to do now on the iPhone.

G said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4ALL2ALL said...

Thanks Google Mobile Team !

Careening Space said...

www.google.com\ig\i

Best thing Ever.

Admittedly I have enough tabs to cover my daily reading habit, so it cuts down on my reader use.

the collapsable headings make it so sweet and simple.

next comes a clean, the modifiable tab interface with a vanishing sign-in link, yah?

I suppose if you use the email module, it is a nice enough work around.

On the free standing contacts database (share-able?) idea - that would be phenomenal, but perhaps on the wrong blog?

Gooogle Docsediting - no brainer (at least the doc aspect, i can see the spread sheets and presentations being problematic)

I like the idea of accessing my Google Aps, but I really want to be able to use my contacts more better. I run a company and I cannot sync group contacts via outlook, nor google... I have a rigged work-around for Outlook, but am waiting for Google Aps. And being that contacts are part of your core mission (accessing information) as well as part of a social network concept (do I hear "a growing market for social networking via the phone" and perhaps a "Buy Plaxo before M$ does!!") I am unsure the hold up. Having said that, the new contact interface on the desktop would be quite useful on the iPhone.

All that aside, Thank you. Good Work.

k said...

I had my iphone Safari homepage very nicely synced with my igoogle desktop homepage... suddenly today it is forcing me to google mobile (aarrgggg - seems very clunky in comparison). No amount of over typing in Safari will get me back to my regular igoogle homepage (or the plain google page for that matter). How do you 'opt out' of google mobile?

B-Scene Films said...

To echo K's comments, I HATE the mobile version of iGoogle. How can you opt-out of this? My iPhone lets me scale a page nicely and I much prefer the normal iGoogle appearance.

kathy green said...

I am not terribly impressed. I think they are going to have to do a lot more to make it clear they are paying special attention to my iPhone. I think they are now in competition with Apple, no?

fraudfeasor said...

This looks great and it works great! The user interface is very fast (even on EDGE) and I think it looks better than Google Apps on a regular browser looks. My one complaint: the calendar no longer permits users to enter a new calendar item. I hope this will be improved soon! Otherwise, this is a great improvement and I look forward to the next one!

Carfeld Yim said...

I still hoping that I can use the full version of GMail that I can easy to select one label, select all unread, and trush them all in one

Kevin said...

Am I missing something... the Calendar app in this new iPhone interface has never once actually loaded my Events... but, the old "generic" Mobile version of Calendar works just fine. I have reported this several times via the "feedback" screen but still no Google Love. I would love to be able to access everything from the one app but to get Calendar I have to specifically navigate to the old Calendar app... never works from the Calendar button via Safari on my iPhone... or my wife's.

beemme said...

is their any thought going into the apps for the 3G that ia coming pretty soon.

Kevin said...

Yeah!!! Calendar is finally working in the iPhone interface... as of 02/12/2008.

Now, to make a suggestion... the Google Mobile/iPhone interface is nice because I get a summary and with easy "tap" access to "star" an item. It would be nice to have that interface for Google Reader... would make it easier to "star" an item and then read it later. Right now you have to click through and load up another summary of the feed and then click "Add Star"... too much clicking and Edge is slow :)

Thanks to all that got the Calendar working... love it :)

Dennis said...

Search is still broken.

As a few others have pointed out in the comments, using the Safari search field to search Google now returns results using the Google Classic results page, rather than the previously-used Google Mobile results page. This sort of defeats the purpose of the other changes you put into place if I have to switch to Yahoo as my default Safari search engine (which I have). I'd like to use Google, but you guys have broken the search results page and have completely ignored every post about it here and elsewhere on your blog. Fix the results page. Working on other "features" while failing to fix those that have been broken makes Google look like it has ADD.

Big companies always seem to ignore their users.

BTC said...

How much data is used by iphone gmail in comparision to nokia and other gmail applications?

Michael said...

Actually you can still turn on "Format web pages for your phone" from the iPhone:

(1) on the iPhone, in Safari, go to "google.com/xhtml"

(2) Click "Settings"

(3) Set "Format web pages for your phone" to "ON" and hit "SAVE".

Dennis said...

Michael,

I do not see that option at all in the settings/preferences page. Where is it?

Thanks

Michael said...

Did you click "Settings" in the lower right-hand corner first as per step (2)? I assume you went to the exact URI in step (1), which is "google.com/xhtml".

For step (3) you'll see 4 Radio buttons: the 3rd one says "Format web pages for your phone". Set this to ON and hit SAVE at the bottom.

Dennis said...

Michael,

When I go to google.com/xhtml, I see the Classic format of the page (it's still the version that fits the iPhone's display, just not the "Mobile" format).

There is a "Preferences" link, in the middle of the page. Tapping this link brings me to the preferences page.

If I tap "Mobile" instead, I get the iPhone-specific version of Google, with the nice blue-background header at the top. I now see the "Settings" link, but not in the lower right-hand corner. I see it in the middle, next to "help & Terms". If I tap this "Settings" link, I get the Google preferences page, which is formatted the same as the preferences page I get if I click the "Preferences" link on the "Classic" page (see above). It is formatted for a regular browser.

If I zoom into the preferences page, I do not see the option to "Format web pages for your phone".

Am I missing something? Am I at the wrong page? When I punch in google.com/xhtml, it redirects me to www.google.com/m/classic. Could that be my issue?

Dennis said...

Michael,

If I go to google.com/xhtml on my desktop Mac, using Safari, I am not redirected. I see the page you are talking about. I just can't get to it from my iPhone.

JoeJF said...

if I go directly to 'http://www.google.com/xhtml?action=sets' on my iPhone I am not redirected and have the option to "format web pages for your phone". And, when I click on save I am not redirected to the iPhone mobile ... just the regular mobile version. However, after submitting a search it never shows any results. It shows "next 10" but there are none on the page. I assume this has to do with the phone getting the HTML for the regular mobile version but the CSS for the iPhone. I figured I would try the iPhone mobile version and see if pages were formatted but they are not. I really wish I could use the iPhone mobile version with the option to "format web pages for my phone". But, I do have a bookmarklet, "Google Mobile it", to take me to the gwt version of the current page. If a page is loading slow just select my bookmarklet. ... there's always something.

Plimper said...

Hello there.
I am using with the java application v1.1.1 through my Lg ku990 Viewty.
Can anyone tell me how i can download attached files like mp3 or jar files?
Kind Regards
plimper

Meindert B said...

Can someone tell me why i get a bilingual (all items are both in english and dutch..)menubar? it's very annoying and f*cks up the layout of the page...
I like the app, just not this way :-(

Meindert B said...

forget it, solved by changing settings to just english...
still it would be nice if setting it to ducth would override the english layout of the taskbar...

Free Bet said...

u guys know which google does the iphone use?? is it the same as the regional settings based on ip or does it always go to google international???

if im say in the UK does it go to google.co.uk?

Angel said...

@Peter Huesken

Thanks for the link to the English version of Google mobile, I am in Puerto Rico and it would always bring up Google display in Spanish.

Petros said...

Uh, how come I use all the Google.com apps/mail/etc. but I can't find it on the Canadian iTunes App Store.

Kane TO said...

In reference to Denis' problem with the NATIVE google search embedded in Safari's task bar displaying results in classic view...has anyone solved this problem?

The suggestions from Michael seem to work to format the results if I search from google's mobile site, but still appear in classic view if I search from the built in search.

Isn't this the easiest way to perform a google search? Why would this not have been addressed yet?

Chuck U. Farley said...

This is really neat -- is there any possibility that it will be available for the GSA or Google Mini? We've got a number of Google appliances in our enterprise environment and with VPN access, our iPhone users are able to do internal Google searching -- I would love to provide this interface for them.

R. De Mar said...

A small issue: spanish version of google for iphone write "pagina principal" instead of "home", but this doesn't fit in so little space so it is shown in two lines.

Erik said...

I'm also still having the same problem where the native safari search box on the iphone loads the full-size Google results page. The google version it is 'set' to is already 'mobile'. I've got to think there is some way to fix this since it doesn't seem to be widespread... but obviously other commenters are experiencing this. I've had to switch to Yahoo results for now, which loads the mobile results page from the search box. Any help would be appreciated.

Juan Carlos Prieto said...

how about mexico? same for google Earth

achal said...

Why doesn't the search from default Safari search box redirect to iphone interface!!!

Yahoo search goes to their mobile interface, Why can't you redirect my default search to iphone interface !!!!

Paul Koanui said...

I can't download from AppStore. I tried two nights ago and could see the application from within AppStore. When I tried to install it I was told the requested item was unavailable. Now, its totally disappeared from the AppStore. I am in the US. It's as though Apple pulled the product. Can anyone confirm that it is not on the AppStore any longer?

Ground Wire Computers said...

Beeen looking for google on mobile.found it the problem is that I am not using. Data plan on blackberry.

Need a wifi version of google apps for mobile.

Cheers.