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  • Another Day on Earth

    • 10 out of 10
    • Brian Eno
    • In his first proper solo release since 1996's relatively cold "The Drop," Brian Eno has constructed a whimsical and ecclectic masterpiece which is arguably one of the year's strongest records thus fa
  • The Dresden Dolls

    • 10 out of 10
    • The Dresden Dolls
    • The energetic duet of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione that make up the Dresden Dolls have created a wonderfully haunting sound in their self-titled album. They have been able to construct an imme

  • Bowie at Beeb: Best of BBC Radio 68-72

    • 10 out of 10
    • David Bowie
    • The companion CD to a BBC television concert, BBC Radio Theatre has some of the best renditions of many of Bowie's best songs throughout his career. "I'm Afraid of Americans" is substantial

  • Zooropa

    • 10 out of 10
    • U2
    • This record is perhaps U2's finest hour, yet it has been forgotten as a strange by-product of the ZooTV tour's overload, and is generally regarded by most fans as a poor effort. It is this sentiment t
  • Playing the Angel

    • 8 out of 10
    • Depeche Mode
    • Oddly enough, Playing The Angel is a return to form for Depeche Mode, even though it may well be argued that they never truly deviated from their roots in their more recent offerings. In the

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In-Depth Review

Google Mobile App’s Voice Search

The free Google Mobile App for the iPhone and iPod touch can now search the Web based on voice commands. It's also capable of quick text searches of the contacts list as one types in the first few characters. In my initial testing, I found voice recognition to be good in favorable surroundings and slow speech.

The update to Google's mobile app was officially published on Nov 14, but actually went live on Monday, November 17th. It is free. I informally tested the app on an iPhone 3G.

The testing started with a quiet, large room (fairly echo free) and an air cleaner on low about 5 feet (1.5 m) away. The app works by detecting when the user places the iPhone close to the head, then beeps to let the user know it's ready for input. Normally spoken questions met with fairly good results.

Google Mobile App

Here are some sample questions and the corresponding text as interpreted by the app. The top listed URL is also shown.

Q: "When was Charlize Theron born?"
A: "when would surely spears born?"    
    Web link to Britney Spears

Q: "How old is Barack Obama?"
A: "How old is barack obama?" (47 years, 4 Aug 61)

Q: "Where is the Denver Museum of Nature and Science?
A: "where is the denver museum of nature and science?"

Q: "Who is John Martellaro?
A: "who is john mark de oro?"
    No surprise here.

Q: "Who is Jeff Gamet?
A: "who is jeff gambit?"
   I didn't mumble.  Really Jeff.

Q: "Where is the closest gas station?
    Good results, but location was off.

Q: "How big is a light year?"
A: "how big is a lightyear?"
   9.5 trillion kilometers.

In the next stage of testing, the air cleaner remained on and Internet radio was added at a comfortable listening level. The speakers were 15-16 inches (40 cm) from the iPhone.

Q: "How big is a light year?"
A: "how big is always here?"

Q: "How old is Barack Obama?"
A: "how old is barack obama?" (47 years, 4 Aug 61)

Q: "Where is the Denver Museum of Nature and Science?"
   "where is the denver museum of nature and science?"

That wasn't too bad. So I turned up the volume on the Internet radio to a fairly high level, just a little too loud for listening during work.

Q: "How big is a light year?"
A: "how big is a lightyear?"
   9.5 trillion miles

Q: "How old is Barack Obama?"
A: "how old is barack obama?" (47 years, 4 Aug 61)

That was fairly impressive. Perhaps the software has a background noise filter. Next, I did a a few tests in which I spoke as fast as I could without mumbling. Internet radio was turned off.

Q: "When was Barack Obama born?"
A: "woodrock obama born?"

Q: "How old is Katie Couric?"
A: "culver city clerk"

Just to make sure that the phrase "Katie Couric" wasn't beyond the app's ability in normal speech, I slowed down and tried to articulate carefully:

Q: "How old is Katie Couric?"
A: "how old is katie couric?" (41, 7 Jan 57)

Other Features

The app can only search the Internet with voice commands. However, it also has an alternative text input mode, and that can search your contact list. The Settings page has a toggle that looks, at first, like voice will search contacts, but it turns out to imply all searches, specifically text search.

After I discovered that my location was off, I looked for a way to reset my location, but didn't find it.

The Google mobile app also has a "tab" that allows the user to access all the Google-branded Web applications such as Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Talk and so on. This handy invitation to take advantage of Google Web apps, which are financed in other ways, is probably why this app is free.

Bottom Line

The Google mobile app did better than I thought it would. In normally spoken voice with moderate pace and articulation and even some background music, the app did a good job of bringing up relevant information on the Web. Considering how it can be sometimes inconvenient to type, then correct errors to get a good Google search result, a few misses before a hit with voice is a good trade to make, especially in a situation in which careful typing isn't convenient, such as walking.

Just The Facts

Google mobile app from Google


Pros:Blocks moderate background noise, good voice recognition, good UI, exploits user location.

Cons:Cannot voice search Contacts.

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