Top 5 Things Users Want from Google Mobile

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-15 Print this article Print

In a bit of geeky fun, Google this week celebrated the anniversary of Star Trek's original pilot episode, and with that, the communicator mobile device Capt. James T. Kirk and his comrades used to chat with each other on the go.


Beginning Oct. 12, Google blogged and tweeted tips for using Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube and so forth on mobile phones and solicited questions from users. Late Oct. 14, Google said 519 people submitted 133 questions and cast 4,607 votes on those questions users most wanted answered.

There were five key themes, according to Google:

1: Google Voice

Three out of the top five questions were about Google Voice, which began rolling out to friends and family via new invites the week of Oct. 13.

Google Voice will eventually be available beyond the United States, but Google isn't saying when. Google Voice will also have number portability for people who aren't Michael Arrington, but Google isn't saying when that will be either.

Quite the Catch-22, isn't it? You solicit questions and can't provide the answers.

2: What phones do Googlers use?

Users also asked what Googlers' favorite phones were. Android phones, of course! Along with the iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Nokia and others.

Fact is, Google Mobile team members carry multiple phones constantly and when they need a specific one, they have a Sky Lab with over 800 phones available. Google said:

We understand that the phone someone chooses to use everyday varies with personal preference, but we generally prefer phones with great browsers and fast performance. Of course, it never hurts to have the newest toy on the block.

With that, Google proves it is just like the rest of us humans.

3: Google Wave for mobile

Users can access Google Wave on both Android-powered devices and the iPhone by pointing the phone's browser to

This is no doubt buggy, just like the desktop version of the real-time collaboration platform. When it does work, it's not enough that we have to fry our brains watching cursors bounce across a 13-inch screen, we need to see the same on an infinitely smaller third screen.

4: Web versus app

This is a good one. Why are apps such as Google Reader available as Web applications through the browser, and not as native applications to be downloaded to your phone? Here's a long answer, followed by my cut-through-the-word-mincing reply.

At Google, we believe in the power of the web to give us the flexibility to build one app that can run in the browser on multiple phones, rather than developing a different app for every platform. With more capable mobile browsers and technologies like HTML5 and Gears, web apps deliver a great experience because they closely mirror the desktop web in overall look, feel and functionality. They also let us iterate fast and add lots of cool features quickly without having to build from scratch each feature for various devices and platforms. Of course in some cases, investing in native applications for multiple platforms make sense. For example, with Google Maps for mobile, the native app lets us get your location or quickly process lots of data, such as map tiles. That said, new browsers and faster phones are allowing for more powerful web apps -- such as Google Maps on Palm Pre or Google Latitude on iPhone -- that can also get your location and that are almost as fast as native apps.

Google would have Web apps all day, every day if Apple and others let it. Unfortunately, as we learned from the Google Voice and Google Latitude fiascos, it's not to be.

5: Mobile product road map

What's next? Wouldn't you like to know. Here's my answer: Android every day, all day, spurred by location-based services that track us and serve us ads wherever we are, on MyTouch 3Gs, HTC Heros or the Android device du jour. |

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