Google Brings Places to Mobile Homepage

Yesterday at the "Inside Search" event in San Francisco Google introduced a range of upgrades and improvements: "search by image," voice search for PCs and several mobile search feature tweaks. Among the announcements, voice search for PCs may turn out to be most significant over time. 

On the mobile front Google has been regularly trying to improve the user experience and make it easier to search on smartphones. Google is trying to cultivate mobile search behavior on smartphones comparable to the search habit on the PC. The company is also "hedging" somewhat by offering quite a few experiences and access points: apps, browser-based search and an evolving mobile homepage. 

Below are screenshots reflecting the two of the improvements in mobile announced yesterday. Essentially Google is moving its icon-based "Places" search capability to the HTML homepage. You touch an icon to find nearby businesses in the category (e.g., restaurants, cafes). The "more" button brings you to a screen with a wider range of icons. However the Places app still offers a generally superior overall local search experience. 

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The map-related change duplicates a similar feature that Bing just added to its mobile maps/search experience. On the right in the image above is a map at the top of the screen. As users scroll down the page, the map dynamically changes to reflect the location of the businesses listed.

Google also offers a feature it calls "query builder" for mobile. Essentially the auto-complete drop-down suggestions can be quickly added to the search box to help "build" longer query strings with less typing. This, like other innovations (especially voice search) in mobile are intended to make it much easier and faster to use Google on the go.