Voting tools for volunteers on the go

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 | 5:14 PM

With the U.S. elections less than a week away, voting drives are ramping up. Political parties and non-partisan groups alike are sending out volunteers to encourage citizens to vote on November 4. To make sure these volunteers have the same voter info tools available to them on their phone as on their computer, we've now launched a mobile voting locator tool on m.google.com/elections. (Click here to send this to your phone.)

Now, volunteers can type in the home address of any registered voter and find his or her voting location, whether they're in an office making phone calls, are working from a booth set up outdoors, or are going door to door. While on the go, they use Google Maps for mobile to find their next address or display directions to voting locations.
Of course, between talking to potential voters, volunteers can check out the Elections section in Google News for mobile for the latest updates (go here on your phone), or just search for a nearby coffee shop to stay warm.




Google Earth now available for the iPhone

Sunday, October 26, 2008 | 11:31 PM

(cross posted with the Google LatLong Blog)

The world just got a little bit smaller. Google Earth is now available for the iPhone and iPod touch, allowing you to fly to the far reaches of the world from the palm of your hand. Since we launched Google Earth for the desktop in 2005, we've had over 400 million unique downloads, and people from around the world have used it to view their house, research travel destinations, learn how to make the world a better place, find local businesses, and view geo-located photos. Now, with a free download from the iTunes App Store, you can fly through the same 3D immersive world of Google Earth you've come to love, without having to fire up your desktop computer.


Check out this video tour to see Google Earth for the iPhone in action:



Not only is having Google Earth on your iPhone convenient, but the touch interface is a very natural way to interact with the Earth. Just swipe your finger across the screen and you fly to the other side of the globe; tilt your phone and your view tilts as well. You can pinch to zoom in or out, or just double tap with one finger to zoom in and two fingers to zoom out. We also integrated the My Location feature, so with a touch of a button, you can fly to where you are in the real world on your phone. In addition, we have over eight million Panoramio photos, which are geo-located photos of places, and you can view any and all of them from your iPhone. Besides being beautiful, high-quality pictures, they're specifically of places, so you don't have to see some guy's family on vacation in Thailand--you can see the beaches, the temples, all the things that give you a real sense of the place. Here is a nice shot of the Grand Palace that I found on my virtual tour of Bangkok.


All versions of Earth include search, and the iPhone version is no exception. You have access to the same great local search that you get with Google Maps, so you can search for places, businesses, and landmarks. With Google Earth you get to the full detail page for businesses, so you can get reviews, photos, user content, business hours, and other useful information. We also added a "search near me" feature, so with one touch you can find businesses near your location, without having to navigate there first or type in the name of the city. Looking for a good cafe when you're in Trento, Italy? It's a snap:


To get Google Earth on your iPhone, visit the App Store in iTunes or your iPhone, and search for "Google Earth."

Introducing Gmail for mobile 2.0

Thursday, October 23, 2008 | 10:00 AM

As an engineer on the Gmail for mobile team, I use the Gmail client on my mobile phone all the time. Because of this, I'm always looking for ways to make it faster, more robust and easier to use. Today, we're thrilled to introduce Gmail for mobile version 2.0 for J2ME-supported and BlackBerry phones. Our focus for this version was to make the experience faster and more reliable. We rearchitected the entire client to push all the processing to the background, greatly improve the client-side caching scheme and optimize every bottleneck piece of code we came across.

So, what does this all mean for you?

  • Overall performance improvement: You should experience significant raw speed improvement, smoother scrolling, and no freezing.
  • Multiple accounts management: If you have both a Gmail and Google Apps email account, you can easily switch between them quickly. You will no longer have to use two different mobile apps to access personal and work emails.
  • Multiple mobile email drafts: You can save multiple email drafts in your mobile phone, so that you can pick and choose what you would like to send later.
  • Powerful shortcut keys: If you have a QWERTY phone, you can use shortcut keys. Hit 'z' to undo, 'k' to go to a newer conversation, and 'j' to go to an older conversation. See Menu/Help in the app for more shortcuts.
  • Basic offline support: Can't get a signal? Not a problem. You can compose and read your most recent emails even when there is no signal. Also, any outgoing messages will be saved in the outbox on your phone and sent automatically when you're back in coverage.
Also, Gmail for mobile 2.0 is available in over 35 languages now. Please note, though, that not all features are available for all phones.

Go to m.google.com/mail in your mobile browser to download the new Gmail for mobile for your phone.



My Location now with Wi-Fi

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | 10:54 AM

One of our goals here on the location team is to keep shrinking that magical blue circle that shows you where you are. In fact, just a few weeks ago, we released new optimizations for My Location that helped us calculate location even more accurately.

Today, we're taking another step toward that goal, with the release of My Location with Wi-Fi, which will provide even greater accuracy when you use a device with Wi-Fi. The premise is similar to what we do with cell tower information: information transmitted by nearby Wi-Fi access points is used to pinpoint your location. Since the range of a Wi-Fi access point is smaller than that of a cell phone tower, this often results in a much more accurate position.

Wi-Fi-based location is available in many major cities around the world, but coverage and accuracy will vary. We expect it to improve over time as more people use it.

So how can you start enjoying this Wi-Fi goodness? If you have a Wi-Fi enabled BlackBerry, please download the latest version of Google Maps for mobile. Maps for other mobile platforms, including Android, will get Wi-Fi location soon.

Wi-Fi-based location is also now available through the Gears Geolocation API, bringing more-accurate location information to the browser on your phone or laptop, including Search with My Location.

Enjoy the smaller circles!


Adel Youssef and Arunesh Mishra, Software Engineers, Google mobile team

Google on Android: Gmail and Contacts

Friday, October 17, 2008 | 10:00 AM

On September 23, T-Mobile announced the world's first Android-powered phone, the G1. The phone comes preloaded with Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. The applications are easy to use, fully synchronized with the web, and work together in new and innovative ways, as explained in our first post in the blog series: 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will put the spotlight on each one of the Google applications for Android. Today: Gmail and Contacts. -- Marc Vanlerberghe, Product Marketing Director.

As an engineer on mobile, part of my job includes testing multiple phones. Having to add and update contacts whenever I get a new phone is one of my least favorite things to do. Switching phones is such a hassle in no small part because manually adding my friends' contact information takes so much time.

In the early days of developing Gmail and Contacts for Android, the team set a clear goal to make this problem disappear once and for all. We envisioned a world where your various computers and phones would always be in sync without needing discipline, USB cables, Bluetooth, and synchronization software.

It occurred to us that the best way to synchronize these various pieces of information is to let the device do it on its own while you're not looking, so you never have to think about it. Once you've logged into your Google account on an Android-powered phone it automatically synchronizes all your contacts and Gmail information so everything is always available, regardless of where you are and whether you have cell coverage. Since all your contacts and mail are backed up to the network, they will still be available if you get a new phone or just have multiple phones.



You will also find that Gmail on Android preserves all the nice functionality that you are used to on your desktop, such as starring, archiving, assigning and reading labels, and the conversation view that makes reading email on Gmail so pleasant. You can also configure which labels you want to synchronize to your phone and how much data you want there. More than ever, you are in control of the data that you want to find on your phone. Gmail even syncs your drafts so you can begin a message on the phone and send it from the web, or vice versa. With push email, Gmail offers real-time, two-way synchronization of your email, notifying you of new e-mails even when you're using another application.



Of course, your contacts list in Gmail also syncs to the phone, and any changes you make on the phone sync to your contacts list on the web.

Because this synchronization works in both directions, you can add a contact on the web and almost immediately use it to call the person from your phone. Once you get used to automatic synchronization, you'll wonder how you could ever live without it. We certainly became addicted to it, and we hope you will too!

To learn more about Gmail on the world's first Android-powered phone, visit the Gmail blog



Google on Android: YouTube

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | 3:00 PM

On September 23, T-Mobile announced the world's first Android-powered phone, the G1. The phone comes preloaded with Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. The applications are easy to use, fully synchronized with the web, and work together in new and innovative ways, as explained in our first post in the blog series: 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will put the spotlight on each one of the Google applications for Android. Today: YouTube. -- Marc Vanlerberghe, Product Marketing Director.

Whether it's the infectious laughter of "Dad at the Comedy Barn" or Randy Pausch's uplifting "Last Lecture," YouTube on Android can bring news and entertainment to you in an immediate, personalized way. Let me tell you about my favorite YouTube features and how I use them.

I walk into the local coffee shop to get a dose of caffeine -- double espresso is my drink of choice. The Formula 1 race in Singapore was two weekends ago, the first night race F1 has ever held. I wonder if there are some highlights on YouTube. I slide open the keyboard and type "Formula 1 Singapore" and sure enough, there's a video with some footage from the first practice session. The cars look fantastic under the lights. I wonder if my friend Ken has seen this video. I click on the "Menu" button, select "Share," and up pops the email application - I know Ken will appreciate the video as much as I do.

When the video is done playing, a bunch of related videos pop up.



This is great because I can simply choose from any of them to see more F1 racing footage. This feature makes it easier to find more videos that interest me.

While I am busy watching the F1 video, my wife emails me a link to a YouTube video of the San Jose Taiko company. She's a big fan of taiko drumming and is asking if I want to go with her to the concert on Sunday. I tap the link in the email message and watch the video. Wow, I can't wait to see the concert. I hit the back button to take me back to the email conversation and reply to my wife, "Yes -- let's go!"

In addition to the tight integration with Gmail and other applications that are already on the device, I find it really cool that YouTube on Android exposes its search functionality to other Android apps through the open application framework, giving applications like the built-in music player the power to quickly find relevant videos. All I have to do is long-press on the artist, song name, or album to do a search on YouTube for a related video. I'm really looking forward to seeing how developers will integrate YouTube features into their own applications.



Google on Android: Maps

Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | 5:55 PM

On September 23, T-Mobile announced the world's first Android-powered phone, the G1. The phone comes preloaded with Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. The applications are easy to use, fully synchronized with the web, and work together in new and innovative ways, as explained in our first post in the blog series: 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will put the spotlight on each one of the Google applications for Android. Today: Maps. -- Marc Vanlerberghe, Product Marketing Director.

When we designed Google Maps for the T-Mobile G1, we set out to create a great mapping application that took full advantage of the G1's hardware, like the touch screen, accelerometer, and GPS, as well as the deep system integration made possible by the Android platform.

One of my favorite things to do with Google Maps on Android is to explore new and favorite places. You can pan around and zoom in and out easily using just your thumb on the touchscreen -- a big plus for all those times when that other hand is unavailable. And if I want to see a restaurant or building up close, I can switch to Street View and view a panorama from street level. I can even turn on Compass mode to let me look around the panorama by moving my phone up, down, and to the side. It's like popping up a virtual periscope anywhere you want to check out what's there with your own eyes. Check out the video below for a quick demo. Note that Street View on Android is only available in the US at this time.

When I'm in a new city or just a new part of town, I like to turn on My Location. It can use GPS or just the nearest cell tower to tell me where I am and re-center my position in the middle of my screen when I approach the edge. When I'm walking or in a taxi in a dense city, like New York, I zoom in to street level and turn on GPS for the highest accuracy.

And as I wander the city, I can search for nearby businesses (like restaurants), and use Android's integrated Map features to save search results to my contacts. For instance, if I find a restaurant that I like, I can save it to my contacts and then later on call it or Map it with one touch. In the future, when I do another search with Maps, I might even see this contact again as a suggested search result along side past queries.

Maps is also integrated with email, IM, and the web on Android. For instance, street addresses that appear as plain text in these apps become touchable zones that you can click on to take you straight to Maps. Something similar happens when a Google Maps link is pasted into an email, IM or placed on a web page. When I touch it, I can choose whether to view the map in the browser, in Google Maps, or in any other application that's built to handle what's known to Android developers as an "intent." Or, I can make the choice once and save it as my default map-viewing application (Google Maps, in my case).

Perhaps best of all is that most of the resources, flexibility, and functionality in Google Maps are available to any application written for Android. Cab4me and Locale are both Android Developer Challenge winners that used the Android platform to build compelling applications with maps and location at their core. Any developer can use Android's MapView and location APIs to build location-aware mobile applications like these. While the team is proud of Google Maps on Android and other cool applications we've seen to date, we're equally excited to see what new kinds of maps and location-enabled applications developers create in the coming months.



Google on Android: Search

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 | 5:27 PM

On September 23, T-Mobile announced the world's first Android-powered phone, the G1. The phone comes preloaded with Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. The applications are easy to use, fully synchronized with the web, and work together in new and innovative ways, as explained in our first post in the blogseries: 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will put the spotlight on each one of the Google applications for Android. Today: Search. -- Marc Vanlerberghe, Product Marketing Director.

Google's mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Android-powered phones are designed to support the second part of that mission -- universally accessible and useful -- by making Search an integrated, easy-to-use, and platform-wide feature.

We've integrated Search with applications in a variety of ways, in order to make it universally accessible. Every searchable application includes a Search menu option. Some applications (like Maps) support type-to-search. Just start typing, and Maps will automatically open the Search UI for you! Some applications (like Android Market) have Search buttons, while others have Search widgets (like the home screen). Finally, on the T-Mobile G1, there's even a dedicated Search key on bottom row of the keyboard. Just press it and start typing your query.

We've made Search easier to use by providing suggestions. As you type, the list of suggestions refines itself, and you'll immediately jump to that search with a simple touch. There are two types of suggestions on the T-Mobile G1. Google web searches use Google Suggest technology to offer relevant, up-to-date suggestions. Other applications, like YouTube or Gmail, suggest queries you've previously made so that it's easier to find and share results that you've found before. I've even used recent query suggestions to start a search without any typing at all.

Also, we've integrated search across the platform so that applications can even share search capabilities with each other. For example, as Marc noted in his blog post, the music player can use other apps, like the browser or YouTube, to search for artist info, more music, or even music videos.

Finally, we've made it easy for third party developers to incorporate search into their applications, too. We've provided an easy-to-use API, documentation, sample code, and everything else a developer needs to implement basic searchability -- with recent query suggestions -- in their apps. What's more exciting to me is that developers can improve upon search as well. Maybe someone will find and provide new sources of searchable knowledge, or serve "mind reading" suggestions, or display search results in a more informative and beautiful way? I can't wait to see what developers come up with!

To see Google search on Android in action, check out this video:



Voting info on your phone

| 2:58 PM

Interest in the upcoming U.S. elections is at an all-time high, so it's important for people to know how to register to vote. We've updated m.google.com/elections with information for each state about voter registration, early voting, and state voter hotlines. On phones with full web browsers, like the iPhone, you can also get all state online resources including complete online registration forms. (Not on a mobile device now? Send this URL to your phone.)

Voter registration deadlines are right around the corner (the earliest are Alaska, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington, which require mailed-in registrations to be postmarked by October 4) so be sure to check your state's rules in time.

Check out the Official Google Blog to learn about Google's other efforts to get out the vote.