We're Listening

Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 6:01 PM

Here at Google, user feedback helps us improve our products. While we love to hear praise on what's working well, the honest direct feedback on what's not working is just as valuable and motivating. We'd like to share a couple of stories about recent product changes that were shaped greatly based on the feedback you have provided in the Google Mobile Help Forum. Hopefully, you'll continue to raise your voice and help us build better and more useful products.

iGoogle for Android and iPhone

In January, the high-end version of iGoogle for Android was discontinued because we felt it was too slow, and users were, instead, redirected to the standard Mobile iGoogle site. At the time, we thought you'd welcome the improvements to speed and stability. We humbly found out that we were wrong. One thread in the user forum received over 350 replies and almost 18,000 page views! Here's what some folks had to say:

"Its not just that the standard mobile verision of iGoogle is weak, its vastly inferior to the optimized version for iPhone..." - mccarrabba

"The mobile version is not good enough. Why should I have to suffer because other mobile devices offer crappy browsers? This is a horribly short-sighted decision." - tewha

Well, we heard you loud and clear. Our team read each of the forum posts, and listened to why the standard version did not meet your needs. Last month, we brought back iGoogle for Android and iPhone and made it better than ever. The new version is faster and easier to use, and there's support for tabs and more of your favorite gadgets. We also now support the in-line display of articles for feed-based gadgets, so you can read article summaries without leaving the page.

We're glad that so many of you voiced your ideas. iGoogle is back and better, and it seems like folks are pretty stoked:

"Personally, I could have cried. And I mean that in a good way. OMG-about time!! I'm leaving on vacation and was for sure I was going to have to take my laptop. Tabs actually work! My gadgets work! Its back! Hip Hip Hooray!" - ktigger2

Google Maps for mobile
Soon after we launched Google Maps for mobile 3.0 and Google Latitude on four platforms (Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian S60), we received some helpful feedback on where improvements could be made and problems fixed.

Keeping in mind the input of many faithful Help Forum posters, we released two updated versions for Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 users in April (version 3.0.1) and July (version 3.2). These versions added new features, like Layers, and included some fixes and new ways to use Maps for mobile that were among the most requested by you. For example, the My Maps feature request received over 2,000 votes on our Mobile Product Ideas page. We also used specific Help Forum conversations to tweak behavior, such as the backlight timeout on Symbian phones, and to fix issues, like copy and paste for Windows Mobile phones.

In June, we also updated Maps in Android Market to Maps 3.1, introducing popular feature requests like Transit directions and Google Search by voice. We've received lots of positive feedback about pushing out these features:

"Not only is this an awesome update, but what an awesome way to distribute!" - matt

In addition to the iGoogle and Maps for mobile updates, your feedback also led to the development of other exciting new features -- for example, labels for Gmail and direct YouTube uploads on Android. Your ideas and requests help us to drive and prioritize new products and features, so please post your thoughts on the Help Forum. As you continue to show us what you care about, we'll continue to listen as we work on our mobile products.

Chris Nguyen & Gabe Garcia, Google Mobile Consumer Operations

The Iterative Web App: Links Got Shorter and Smarter

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 | 10:03 AM

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: Smart Links.

We all know that on a mobile device, screen space is scarce, so it's not very helpful when I get an email with a long link such as this Google Maps link:

Not only is the link taking up an unnecessarily large amount of space, but it's not easy to find the address that's hidden in the middle of the link. To solve this problem, we now shorten the link and automatically convert raw links into named links, which we call "Smart Links". So instead of seeing that long link to Google Maps, you're going to see the link renamed to the actual address:

Clicking on it still takes you to the same Google Maps page, but now the link is much shorter and the important information is more visible!

Here's a list of links we currently support:
  • Google Maps address queries
  • Google Maps directional queries (with one destination)
  • Google Sites webpages
  • YouTube videos
We're planning to roll out support for more link types, such as Google Docs, so watch for those in your emails. Please note that Smart Links work only in plaintext emails right now.

To try out Gmail for mobile, visit gmail.com in your mobile browser. This version of Gmail for mobile supports iPhone/iPod touch OS 2.2.1 or above, as well as all Android-powered devices, and is available for US English only. To make it easy to access your Gmail account, try creating a home screen link.

One more tip: Label management got easier for Android-powered devices with a physical keyboard. In the "Label as..." menu on the floaty bar, there is now a text box above the list of labels. You can type the name of a label you wish to select into the box rather than clicking on it. As you type, the list filters to show only labels that match what you've typed. We also added more keyboard shortcuts to bring it closer to the Gmail experience on your computer.

by Casey Ho, Software Engineer, Google Mobile

Google Latitude. Now for iPhone.

Thursday, July 23, 2009 | 3:00 PM

I'm a big fan of the iPhone. I'm also a big fan of the web. So, naturally, I'm excited that today we're finally releasing Google Latitude for iPhone and iPod touch as a web application running in Safari.

Our Latitude web app provides all the core functionality you might expect: you can see the location of your friends on a map and modify your privacy settings so that you control how your location is shared and with whom. In fact, if my friends and colleagues back in London haven't yet noticed my absence, they'll see in Latitude that I'm currently vacationing on the beach in Australia. Hi guys, remember me!?

You'll also find basic Search and Directions functionality to help you get around the world. And just like our Google Maps for mobile client apps (and more recently on desktop Google Maps), you can press the "blue dot" to be taken to your approximate current location on the map with My Location, thanks to Safari now supporting the W3C Geolocation API.

To try Google Latitude, type google.com/latitude into your iPhone's browser. And if you miss the experience of launching the app directly from your home screen, you can add a bookmark to the home screen by opening Latitude in Safari and tapping the + icon > Add to Home Screen > Add.

We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.

Google, like Apple, continues to push for improvements in web browser functionality. Now that iPhone 3.0 allows Safari to access location, building the Latitude web app was a natural next step. In the future, we will continue to work closely with Apple to deliver useful applications -- some of which will be native apps on the iPhone, such as Earth and YouTube, and some of which will be web apps, like Gmail and Latitude.

Unfortunately, since there is no mechanism for applications to run in the background on iPhone (which applies to browser-based web apps as well), we're not able to provide continuous background location updates in the same way that we can for Latitude users on Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Windows Mobile. Nevertheless, your location is updated every time you fire up the app and then continuously updated while the app is running in the foreground. And, of course, you can check in on where your friends are, so we think there's plenty of fun to be had with Latitude. Learn more about updating and sharing your location from your iPhone.

The Google Latitude web app currently supports iPhone/iPod Touch OS 3.0 or above. For now, it's available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and we hope to bring it to more countries soon.

by Mat Balez, Product Manager, Google Mobile Team

Layers of fun in Google Maps for mobile 3.2

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 | 3:03 PM

Just as the world itself can be viewed through many lenses, the latest version of Google Maps for mobile allows you to view many layers of information on your map at the same time. Layers make it easier and more useful to find and interact with geographic content, like public transit, traffic (with incidents!), local search results, Latitude friend locations, Wikipedia and more. You can also see your own My Maps content as a layer on Google Maps for mobile. And finally, multiple layers can be combined at the same time to give you a content-rich view of what's around you.

Layers on the Map: Latitude locations + My Map

Since my wife and I love participating in cycle touring events on our tandem bike, we thought our challenge for this year -- 1500 KM of riding in Audax UK's Super Randonneur Series -- would make for a great environment to test the Layers functionality while on the go.

The first thing we wanted to try was My Maps. This feature on Google Maps on desktop becomes even more useful with the ability to access them from my phone. We're not alone in wanting this -- it's the fifth most requested feature on the Google Mobile Product Ideas page. It was great to trace bike routes and add places to stop on the computer, add the My Maps layer in Maps for mobile with a few clicks, and see them up on my Nokia S60 handset from our bike.

Next was discovering new places. When frequently (and literally) rolling into new villages and towns, it was really handy to be able to turn on the Wikipedia layer and quickly learn about interesting stuff in the area. We could click on any of the 'W' icons on the map to read more.

And search is improved too! Maps now displays a lot more search results -- shown as small red dots -- making it easy to find the nearest refreshment stop or plan way ahead.

Not only are search results more useful but it's now easier to search in the new version as well. Under Search, you'll find a link to browse popular categories, which helped us avoid the pain of typing on a mobile whilst out on the road (only available in the US and China for the time being).

Completing an Audax ride within time is no use if you don't get to the start on time. Traffic has been available on Google Maps for mobile for some time, but this new release includes traffic incident information for certain cities, giving more insight into the nature of the delay. Around London (and other cities where supported) we might use public transport, so having a map of transit lines with departure times is great. Now I just wish more transit services carried tandems!

To get started with Layers on Google Maps for mobile 3.2, hit the "2" key or select Layers in the menu. You can toggle various layers on and off, and you can mash up combinations like friends' Latitude locations against a planned route. Google Maps for mobile Layers is available now on Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile phones, and will come soon to other platforms. The upgrade is available for all countries where Google Maps for mobile is currently available. To get it on your phone, go to m.google.com/maps. You can read more about this over in the Help Center or check out the release notes for this version.

by Jonathan Dixon, Mobile Software Engineer and Randonneur

Search with My Location for iPhone 3.0. And All that Jazz

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 | 5:00 PM

I recently visited NYC where I met up with my friend Joanne, a jazz singer with a wonderful 1920's throwback style. I wanted to find a jazz club close to my hotel on the west side for us to meet. The problem was that I hadn't lived in Manhattan for 5 years, and my memory for places was failing me.

At Google, we want to make searching the world around you as easy and informative as searching the web. That's why we're introducing Search with My Location for iPhone 3.0. Now if I want to know which jazz clubs are near me, I don't have to specify a location - I just search for "jazz clubs".

As of today, when you visit www.google.com from Safari on your iPhone 3.0, you can choose to turn on My Location by tapping on the link on the homepage. When you tap on the "update" link, your location will be updated and displayed right there on the homepage. Whenever you want to refresh your location, just tap the "update" link. Testing this in New York, my search for "jazz clubs" returned a handful of places within walking distance. I picked one, tapped the phone number, made a reservation, and we were set for the night.

As always, your privacy is one of our top concerns. Google won’t use your location in search unless you explicitly opt in. And you can always disable the feature from Preferences at the bottom of the homepage.

Search with My Location from Safari is available in English in the US and UK. Look for other country and language combinations soon. You can also search with My Location using Google Mobile App, available from the iPhone App Store.

Browse a collection of experts' favorite places using your phone

| 1:54 PM

For years my favorite thing to do with my phone has been looking up local business information. I can't tell you how many times I've used Google Maps for mobile to search for nearby businesses and then get directions. Being able to find businesses from my phone is liberating -- no longer do I need to plan ahead when I go out.

I've discovered many of my favorite places using my mobile phone, and today a number of local experts have shared their favorite places with us all. Their favorite places are all over the world, in cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo, London, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, and Prague.

For example, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a big fan of Nathan's Famous hot dogs. Can't say I blame him.

And if I ever meet virtuoso cellist Yo-Yo Ma, I know exactly how I'll break the ice. We can talk about a mutual favorite place -- Yank Sing in San Francisco, which serves amazing dim sum.

You can explore our collection of experts' favorite places using most smartphone operating systems: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Symbian S60, and Windows Mobile.

Just visit m.google.com/fav using your phone's browser. You'll need to install Google Maps for mobile for the website to work correctly.

If you'd rather use your computer for now, visit the desktop website to explore our collection of experts' favorite places. You can send the collection of favorite places to your phone with the "Go Mobile" link on the top right.

Posted by Ryan Pollock, Product Marketing Manager, Google Mobile

Google Voice for Android and BlackBerry

| 8:03 AM

Today, we're happy to announce Google Voice for mobile which brings voicemail transcriptions, the ability to call and text with your Voice number, and cheap international dialing to your mobile phone. David and I were inspired to build this app when we went skiing for a weekend in Tahoe. Like all good Google Mobile team members, we each had three or four phones with us. Of course, carrying three phones while skiing is pretty tough, so we both decided to take a different phone to the slopes each day to see which one worked best as a 'winter sport device'.

Normally, this would have been a nightmare because our friends wouldn't know which number they could reach us on. But since we use Google Voice, one number rings all of our phones. As we were skiing and sending pics to our friends, we had a thought - it's great that our friends and family only need to use one number to reach us. But it's weird that our outbound calls and messages are shown as coming from the phone's underlying number, rather than from the Google Voice number that they're used to, causing confusion.

So with that, we're excited to release the Google Voice app for Android and Blackberry. You can use the app to make outgoing SMS messages and calls from your Google Voice number. What's more, this app improves the mobile experience of Google Voice in a number of ways.

The Google Voice app integrates seamlessly with your phone's native address book, making it even easier to call or text with your Voice number. Voicemail transcriptions are now available, and the app will highlight individual words during playback just like your favorite karaoke song. It also lets you take advantage of Google Voice's low-priced international call rates, starting at only $0.02/minute.

To try Google Voice for mobile, go to m.google.com/voice on your BlackBerry or search for "Google Voice" on Android Market to download the app. Before you ask, yes, we are working on ways to make this service available to iPhone users. If you don't have an Android-powered device or BlackBerry, you can still use many Google Voice features via our mobile website at google.com/voice. Please note, in either case a Google Voice account is required. Check out more details in our Help Center and feel free to leave feedback and questions in our forum.

QR code
To download the app from Android Market, scan the QR code above

You can read more about Google Voice on the Official Google Blog

Posted by Marcus Foster, Product Manager, and David Singleton, Engineering Manager, Google Mobile

Google Product Search for mobile now available for more languages and phones

Thursday, July 9, 2009 | 5:15 PM

A few months ago we launched Google Product Search for iPhone and Android-powered devices. At the time, a number of you asked why Product Search for mobile was not available for your phone model. Well since then, we've added support for the Palm Pre, and today we're announcing support for all devices with an internet connection in the US, UK, Germany and South Korea.

No matter what phone you use, just enter your product query on google.com and select the "Shopping results..." link. Or you can start your mobile product search directly by creating a bookmark to www.google.com/m/products.
For Android, iPhone, and Palm Pre phones in the US, we've also added Google Suggest to the Product Search home page and results pages. Google Suggest recommends queries as you type so that you can type less while you search.

Google Search results optimized for feature phones in 38 languages

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | 11:26 AM

One of our top goals on the mobile search team is to bring you the comprehensiveness of Google's web search while optimizing the search experience for your mobile device and in your language. Here is an update on our progress.

After launching new optimized search results pages last December for iPhone and Android-powered devices in the US, our team has been working hard to bring universal search results to more devices in more countries. In March, we expanded the availability of the new iPhone and Android format to over 20 countries. Since then, we've also launched the new experience for feature phones in the US and in Japan. Today, we're happy to announce that the new format is available on all device models in over 60 countries and 38 languages.

Whether you have a smartphone or a feature phone, if you have mobile internet access you can get the new mobile-optimized Google Search results pages on your phone just about anywhere in the world. Just go to Google.com in your browser and do a search.

The new format provides improved support for the universal search results you are familiar with on your computer.

  • When available, News, Images, Blog, Video and Product Search results are blended right into your result page.
  • Many of your favorite Google Search features now appear in the first result to provide direct answers to your searches.
  • We continue to optimize specific results for mobile, so local listings for restaurants in London, for example, provide easy-to-select phone number links.
As always, we appreciate your feedback so leave us comments below or stop by our Forum to let us know what you think.