Google Gets Muddy Reviews on 'Fluid' iPhone App
"I wanted Web results as well as image, local and news results without having to repeat my search," said Steve Kanefsky, the application's designer. "I wanted to check Gmail and my news feeds in Google Reader without having to load a new page every time. I also wanted Google Suggest to save me time typing queries on the virtual keyboard."
Aiming to give iPhone users faster and more fluid access to its content, Google has released a new, Ajax-based homepage tailored specifically for the Apple devices.
Google integrated a number of its popular services into a single interface that automatically is displayed when iPhone users point their browsers to Google's main page.
The company said the interface is designed to make it easier and quicker for iPhone users to "find, use and switch between Google search, Gmail, Calendar, Reader and more."
Preloaded for Instant Switching
The goal was to use Ajax technology to create a home page for iPhone users that would preload favorite Google services and allow instant switching between them, said Steve Kanefsky, a software engineer with Google's mobile team who developed the application.
"I wanted Web results as well as image, local and news results without having to repeat my search," said Kanefsky. "I wanted to check Gmail and my news feeds in Google Reader without having to load a new page every time. I also wanted Google Suggest to save me time typing queries on the virtual keyboard."
Kanefsky quickly designed the application. "I created a prototype and showed it to some fellow Googlers," he said. "After that, things started moving pretty quickly."
A Little Ajax Magic
The application also works well on the iPod Touch and said colleagues throughout the company were soon using it, Kanefsky noted. "Our guiding principles were 'fast' and 'fluid.' We think we've achieved both, thanks to some Ajax magic made possible by the iPhone's Safari browser."
Google's goal "is to provide users with access to information, wherever they are," and it wants to do that in a "device-independent" manner, the company said.
However, the fact that the company created a special application for iPhone users was met with grumbling by a number of people.
There was a substantial amount of variance in reaction by iPhone owners who tried the new application; While many said it was blazingly fast, others found glitches or wrote that Google's creation of a special homepage just for iPhones runs counter to the "real Internet" that makes the iPhone different from most other mobile devices.
The Few, The Proud
While Jupiter Research mobile device analyst Neil Strother noted he had not tried the new app on an iPhone, he said he is aware of the "mixed reviews" it has received.
"Some want the unadulterated Web, and others say the Google rendering is great," Strother told MacNewsWorld. "It seems to me we'll have this debate for awhile, until something else comes along. Or, the world will be divided on this point."
Strother said arguing about pros and cons of having Web sites specially-designed for mobile devices -- and, on top of that, for specific units such as the iPhone -- currently involves a relatively small number of tech-savvy people.
"It won't matter to the masses until more of them get a full HTML browser on their phones, which could be quite some time since not everyone is jumping to that type of device real soon," said Strother. "Then again, the mobile Web, whatever your definition, is not the same experience as online. So Google and others, like Zumobi and the widget crowd, just might be able to survive with a mobile Web experience that's good enough and 'open' feeling enough that people won't really care, just as long as they get the sense they are able to get all the 'great stuff' they're used to on the wired Web."