Over the past few months, I’ve been using the iOS Google Search app a heck of a lot, perhaps more so than my actual browser (Chrome).
The app has been making headlines lately due to Google Now-related battery concerns, and since Google I/O is currently underway in San Francisco, I figured what better time to review Google Search.
I tend to Google stuff a lot. I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe it’s because I’m stupid and find myself looking things up all the time; maybe I’m just inquisitive.
In any case, one of the things I made frequent use of on my old Android phone (the trusty HTC Desire HD) was the Google search-bar widget thingy.
Of course, iOS doesn’t like widgets (unless you jailbreak), hence why I’ve installed Google Search.
Anyway! Background covered, what is the point in Google Search, especially when Google has Chrome available for iOS users.
Well, Chrome (and Safari, if I remember correctly) comes up with the last page you looked at, rather than a home page. As such, if I want to Google something via Chrome, I have to bring up the app, tap on the URL, delete it… That’s too many taps already, man.
Perhaps more importantly, I don’t necessarily want to navigate away from the last page I looked at.
I’m now in the habit of having certain tabs open in Chrome all the time (including Mobot, “obvs”), and doing my Googling in Google Search. Browsing and Googling are – to me – two very different things. I like to keep ‘em separate, and I suspect I’m not alone (or Google Search arguably wouldn’t exist).
Thanks to the latest update, Google Search now has three components: your bog standard searching, voice search (which is surprisingly accurate), and Google Now.
The searching is pretty basic. You have your results displayed on one tab, while actual pages load in a second slide-in tab. I’m not entirely sure why the second tab is adopted, though you can swipe it away and kinda keep it in the background when you go back to the results screen.
Along the bottom you have the familiar Google options, including Web, Images, Places, News… and I didn’t realise the menu was swipeable at first, but there are actually five further options off screen, including Shopping.
Some of the navigation is a little weird, actually. There is a Back button, but no Forward, which is curious. And slightly annoying, since there’s no History option.
There is, however, a Home button (of sorts) that takes you back to your plain old Google logo and search bar, and that’s where – by swiping up – you’ll find Google Now.
Hmm, what to say about Google Now? I do not understand it at all. Maybe it makes more sense on Android, but it’s tucked away beneath Google Search on iOS.
And what is Google Now? A strange amalgamation of weather and news and calendar entries and traffic updates – “before you ask”. Sorry, but is that supposed to be a good thing?
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but when I want to look up the weather, I’ll look up the weather.
It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve yet to see anything beyond Weather and Calendar. All cards are set to ‘On’, but tapping ‘Show more cards’ yields the error message ‘No more cards are available right now.’
Not that I’m complaining. I don’t really see the point in Google Now, and you can turn it off if you so desire. Incidentally, I haven’t noticed much impact on battery, though it doesn’t appear to be doing much.
Otherwise, I quite like Google Search. As I say, I generally like to keep browsing and Googling separate, and Google Search lets me do that.
- It’s built primarily for Googling
- The surprisingly accurate voice search
- All the familiar little Google categories are there
- Difficult to navigate at times
- No tabs (beyond the slide-in one) or History
- I don’t get Google Now
Summary: If, like me, you like to keep your Googling and your browsing separate, grab Google Search for iOS.
Price: free @ App Store
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.