Google Instant comes to Android, iPhone

Mobile users of Google Instant may not see the same kind of benefit as computer users

Google on Thursday started offering Google Instant on some Android devices and iPhones, as promised when it launched the service for computer users in September.

Google Instant displays results as users type, rather than waiting for the user to hit the search button.

While conceptually the service could save time for mobile users just like it does for computer users, it's not quite as useful on phones due to screen size.

For instance, when using Instant search on an iPhone, the keyboard covers half the screen, and three lines of predicted suggestions under the search bar take up additional screen real estate. That leaves a small sliver of screen -- enough to display three lines of text -- for search results. In some cases, those three lines are part of a sponsored advertisement.

Once users finish typing their search term and hit the "done" button to close the keyboard or choose a word listed among the predictions, the search results are displayed on the entire screen. That process requires the same number of clicks -- one -- as does a search with Instant turned off. Instant automatically displays results for the first predicted word, so users who choose that search term will be spared the short wait it otherwise takes for Google to load results.

Google is calling the service a beta. People with phones running Android 2.2 and iPhones and iPods running iOS 4 should see the option to turn Instant on when they visit Google.com.

"Google Instant for mobile works best on 3G and WiFi networks, but since the quality of any wireless connection can fluctuate, we've made it easy to enable or disable Google Instant without ever leaving the page," Steve Kanefsky, a software engineer with Google, wrote in a blog post about the offering.

Google rolled out Instant for computer users in September to mixed reviews. Some people find it makes searching easier and faster. Others find it to be distracting as search results flash on the page. As with the mobile version, computer users can shut off Instant.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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