The best app you're not using on your iPhone
Got an iPhone? Run, don't walk (virtually speaking), to the App
Store and download Google Search
. Go ahead, I'll wait.
As you might expect, Google Search endows your iPhone (or iPod
Touch or iPad) with the power of, well, Google search. Perhaps
you're already using Google as the search engine in your Safari Web
browser, but the app takes things to a whole new level.
First and foremost, it supports voice-powered searching, which
works with startling, almost magical accuracy. (It's what Siri
aspires to be, but isn't.) Just tap the microphone icon, state your
search request, then watch while the app almost instantly
transcribes your words into text--and quickly gives you a spot-on
Ask, for example, "What's the capital of Nebraska?" In roughly
three seconds, you'll hear, "The capital of Nebraska is Lincoln."
Then you'll see a map, followed by a Wikipedia link and other
typical search results. All this happens remarkably fast. We are
totally living in the future, people.
The app also affords one-tap access to loads of other Google
services, including Calendar, Google Drive, Google Plus, Photos,
Translate, and so on. Basically, whatever you want from Google,
Google Search is your portal.
And it just got even more amazing thanks to the addition of
Google Now, which was previously limited to Android phones (and
only those running Android 4.1, aka Jelly Bean).
Think of Google Now as a kind of personal assistant, one that
can give you custom information based on the time of day, your
current location, and other factors. All this info is delivered via
"cards" that appear when you swipe up from the bottom of the Search
So, for example, you might see cards showing the local
weather, your next appointment (as listed in Google Calendar), the
traffic on your route to work, info and updates for your next
flight, scores for last night's baseball game, and movie showtimes
when you're near a theater.
Obviously a lot of this requires you to be active in Google's
ecosystem. To get notified of friends' birthdays, for example, you
need to be linked to those friends via Google Plus (so that Google
knows the correct dates). And things like flight details are drawn
from confirmation e-mails you receive--but only if you receive them
in a Gmail account.
Even with these requirements, Google Search now ranks among
the coolest (and most practical) iOS apps ever. It's free, and it's
fabulous. Why are you still reading this? Go try it!Veteran technology writer Rick Broida
is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his
money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC
World and Wired.