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Google Integrates Its iPhone Apps

Even as Google gears up to support a new generation of mobile phones via its Android software platform, the search giant continues to develop for other mobile devices.

On Wednesday, Google released a new application that integrates various Google services into a single interface. The idea is to make it easy for iPhone users to find, use and switch between Google search, Gmail, Calendar, Reader, and other applications.

"Traditionally, switching between applications on a mobile device is slow, but what you'll see here is that we've made it blazingly fast," Gummi Hafsteinsson, product manager with Google's mobile development team, told InternetNews.com. Hafsteinsson noted that Google was able to take advantage of the same browser technologies supported by Apple's Safari's browser, such as Ajax, that it's used in the desktop versions of GMail and Google Maps.

Google Search
A choice of iPhone apps.
Source: Google

"We've done a lot to pre-fetch and predict what users will do next so if you want to jump from one application to the other, you can do it instantly," he said.

While Wednesday's announcement concerned the iPhone, Hafsteinsson said it's really part of Google's push to develop easier access to software across mobile platforms including the forthcoming Android-powered devices.

Google software engineer Steve Kanefsky said in a blog post that "fast and fluid" was the design principle behind the release: "I wanted Web results as well as image, local, and news results without having to repeat my search. 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."

With the new software, Google makes an intelligent guess as to what you're looking for after you type a few characters so you can then select the term and save yourself the hassle of typing in the rest of word.

There were several positive remarks along with a few complaints in comments submitted to the blog post. One poster said the unified interface was "great as an idea" but isn't happy Google is implementing different interfaces: "The right way to do it is to make sure that the iGoogle page on PC is the same page when I access it from my mobile. Right now it is not the same. iGoogle on mobile is crippled and a lot of services and RSS feeds are missing from the original iGoogle page."

Hafsteinsson stressed that this and other issues could be addressed as Google continues to refine its software for the iPhone. "We're going to be making significant improvements in the months ahead based on internal discussions and the tremendous amount of feedback we get from users."

Currently four popular applications (Google search, Gmail, Calendar and Reader) are displayed first and you click "more" to get to other applications. While the order of what applications you see first is now fixed, Hafsteinsson said Google is "exploring what makes sense" in terms of making that view customizable.