Google launches iPhone voice search app

After weekend delay, search-by-voice update finally hits App Store

After an unexplained three-day delay, Google late Monday added voice capabilities to its search application for the iPhone.

Google Mobile App 0.3.142 hit Apple's App Store, the only official online mart for iPhone software from third-party developers, on Monday, where it can be downloaded free of charge.

After launching the application, the user only needs to wait for a tone, then speaks normally into the iPhone.

In Computerworld tests, words and phrases were recognized correctly about 80 percent of the time, with the best results -- no surprise -- obtained when speaking slowly and distinctly. Still, as with any speech recognition software, Google's application sometimes thinks it "hears" something completely different from what the user intended. Although it recognized "new york times obama" and "new york times mccain" on the first try for each, it thought it heard "new york times halen" -- and put the band Van Halen as the top result of the search -- when "new york times palin" had been spoken into the iPhone.

Originally, Google Mobile App was supposed to have been posted to the App Store last Friday. That day, Google touted the application to the press and released a video demonstrating the new voice search on its own Web site as well as YouTube; later in the day, however, it yanked the video from both locations.

Another clue that it meant to launch the application last week was in the App Store itself: The release date is listed as November 14.

The new version also adds Google's "Search with My Location," a search enhancement for mobile phones that the company rolled out in mid-September. Using the iPhone's location-awareness features -- the newer 3G model uses GPS, while the original first-generation iPhone relies on a rougher estimate based on a triangulation of nearby cell towers -- Google Mobile App will, for example, narrow searches for "Italian restaurants" to the user's local area.

Google Mobile App can be downloaded directly to the iPhone or from Apple's iTunes, then transferred to the iPhone during the next sync session.

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Gregg Keizer

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