By Jim Karpen on Wed, 05/29/2013
I tend to use Safari for my web browsing, but Google's Chrome browser (free) is a worthy competitor, especially now that you can simply speak your queries in order to do a search. Last week Google announced the new version would be available in the App Store "in the coming days" on the Google Chrome Blog. It's gradually rolling it out, so if you have Chrome and the update isn't yet available, it will be soon. I already have this new feature on my iPad mini. With the new version, you can simply touch the microphone icon and say your query. It returns a list of results and in some cases even speaks them back to you. Apparently much of the functionality of the current Google Search app is being integrated into Chrome.
Once you have the update, Google's blog post suggests you try queries like these so you can see how intelligent and capable the new voice search is:
“How many miles from San Antonio to Dallas?”
“What’s the weather in Rome?”
“Who stars in The Internship?”
Clearly Google is intending to compete with Safari and has greatly developed its capability for natural language understanding. I tried these and other queries, and the results were impressive. When I did a test comparing Google's and Apple's offerings some months ago, the voice search on my Google Nexus 7 was nearly on par with Siri. It wasn't as conversational, though and didn't talk back to me. Nor did it have Siri's personality. On the other hand, it was pretty snappy.
Another major change to Chrome for iOS is combining of the search box and the Internet address box into a single "omnibox." This is how Safari works on my desktop computer, and I much prefer it. The double boxes in iOS seem antiquated.
According to AppleInsider, the new version of Chrome also speeds up web browsing via more efficient caching, as well as having an option to open links from other apps in Chrome and then return to the original app with a single tap.
Google continues to develop new search tools, and basically, it wants to read your mind when you do a search. Earlier this month, it demonstrated new search tools at its developers conference. According to a blog post in The New York Times, when you ask certain questions, Google will now try to predict your follow-up questions and answers them too — even before you ask them. According to the post, if you ask for the population of India, Google will not only give you that information but also the population of China and of the United States. It does this based on the fact that these are the follow-up questions that people ask most frequently.
Google searches also increasingly use your location to return specific results. For example, you can ask “How far from here to Santa Cruz?” and Google will know where "here" is and will give you the answer.
You can read additional examples in the NY Times post of how smart Google is getting.