Requirements: iOS 4.2 or later
Compatibility: Universal app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch
My favorite Web search application on the iPad isn’t a conventional browser, but has been Google’s dedicated Google Search app since it was first released last fall. Recently, Google Search got its first version upgrade.
Google’s increasingly popular Chrome Web browser isn’t available for iOS. I’m not sure why, since I understand it’s based on Apple’s Open Source Webkit layout engine, which is an Apple-imposed blanket requirement for iOS browser support. That’s why there’s no Mozilla Firefox for iOS, but Firefox uses the Mozilla Gecko engine. I deduce that there is some other hoop Google hasn’t been prepared to jump through to get approval to bring Chrome into the walled garden, but within the context of its focused functionality, Google Search is a better tool on iOS than any browser I’ve used on the platform, and it makes me wish there was an OS X version of the app.
Google Search for iOS is simply outstanding—a lovely piece of work that has obviously been carefully tailored and optimized for the iOS. It works with the same speediness, fluidity and smoothness I’ve come to expect from the Chrome browser for OS X. Even Chrome’s one-click ease of machine translation for other language Web pages is supported.
As I noted, within its capabilities, Google Search for iOS lets you search the web faster, easier, and more efficiently than you can with a regular Web browser. How so?
Google Search displays search results and websites side-by-side so you can quickly browse pages and results, and lets you swipe through its image carousel to see image results in full-size. You can also compare search results as webpage snapshots in Instant Previews mode, and use Google Instant and search suggestions to find your desired search results faster. Revisiting past searches is facilitated with Visual Search History, and you can highlight what you want to see on a webpage with the app’s Find button, easily share pages and +1 sites, and have quick access to other Google apps like Gmail, Calendar, Docs and more.
Google Search also supports Voice Search, allowing users to search by voice and skip the typing, and Google Goggles lets you snap a photo of what you see to find more information about products, landmarks or famous paintings, or even solve Sudoku puzzles. The handy “Search Nearby” feature finds places near you without typing your location.
Google Search also serves as a handy frontend gateway to the constellation of Google Web apps and services, somewhat like Google’s Chrome OS does, only bringing it to iOS through the back door, as it were. There’s an application launcher for other Google apps and services like Gmail, Google Reader, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and so forth, on two pages, and easy navigation from one app to another without leaving the Google Search environment. With Version 2 you can sign in onceand won’t need to sign in again to check a quick email, view your next calendar appointment or see what’s happening on Google+.
Google Search app Interaction Designer Noah Levin says Version 2’s interface has been completely redesigned to provide major speed improvements. It doesn’t look a whole lot different on the iPad, and relative speed is a partially subjective impression affected by many variables, such as the Website you’re loading. Google Search was already gratifyingly speedy loading pages, and it still is—presumably now even more so.
Autocompletion of search suggestions is accurately claimed to be significantly faster in this latest version of the app, bringing you search predictions almost instantly with each letter you type. Checking out multiple pages from the same search is easy with the slide-in panel, and you’re now able to quickly swipe back and forth between webpages and your search results, and swap between search modes like Images and Places with a swipeable menu. Finding text within a webpage is streamlined as well. Just tap the magnifying glass on the bottom menu option on any page.
Tap the Images button at the bottom of the search results page and high-resolution images load into a grid. You can browse the images by scrolling down the full-screen grid, or tap on a single image to get details and swipe from image to image. Tap and holding an image will save it to your camera roll. However, one continuing annoyance with this app is that you can’t quickly copy a page URL to the clipboard to paste elsewhere, since URLs are not displayed in an address field. This leaves you with the cumbersome alternatives of opening the page in Safari or emailing the location to yourself—both options available via a pull-down a menu.
Google Search for iOS Version 2 is a significant enhancement of a tool that was already excellent.
Download Google Search