Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | 2:00 PM
The mobile search team is always looking for new ways to make searching the world around you as easy and useful as searching the web. Today we're introducing a redesigned local search experience on your phone that integrates with Google Maps on your computer and includes browseable categories that let you search without typing. Let me tell you how I used these features on my recent vacation to Hawaii.
Before I left, I researched places to visit on Google Maps. I signed in to my Google account and starred the places I wanted to go. Once I got to Hawaii, by signing in on my phone, I was able to see the places I starred on desktop Maps under "Starred Places". I could then click through on place names to visit mobile-optimized versions of Place Pages for Google Maps that include opening hours, reviews, photos, and more.
The new category browse feature made it easy to find a place to rent bicycles for a quick tour of the coastline. I just tapped on "Entertainment & Recreation" and then "Bicycles" to execute a search — no typing necessary. When it was time for scuba diving, I didn't see an appropriate category, so I started typing "SCUBA" in the search box and clicked on a suggestion for "Scuba Tour Agency". A few hours later, I was petting a white-tipped reef shark!
Of course, local search isn't only useful when you're traveling — here's an example of planning a birthday party in my hometown, San Francisco:
To access these features on your mobile device, go to www.google.com/m/local, or just click on the Local tab on www.google.com. The product is available in the US and China, with more regions coming soon.