Google Instant–that thing Google search does where it guesses what search terms you’re in the process of typing and displays search results accordingly–has come to mobile phones (well, devices running Android 2.2 or Apple iOS 4.0, anyway).
An example, courtesy of Google: “If you type anse, you should see ansel adams along with other predictions. Results for the first prediction appear automatically, and tapping on the other predictions will display those results. Pressing the enter key or the search button skips the predictions and will display results for exactly what you’ve typed.” For a better idea, see the demo video.
When Google rolled out the Instant service for the desktop in September (and said that it was soon coming to mobile), I was skeptical about how well it would work on wireless networks. For every new letter you type in the search bar, the Google client has to hit Google’s search servers back home to generate new “guesses” and results. I wondered how reliable Instant could possibly be on mobile networks, which have limited capacity and deliver things instantly only when network conditions are just right.
Well, after a few minutes of using the service on Sprint’s 3G network, I’m surprised at how well it works. The instant search results and keyword guesses don’t come in as fast as they do on the desktop, but they are still pretty speedy. I will withhold judgment until I use the service in cellular dead zones, such as my apartment.
Google seems to be aware of the limitations of network speed: “Instant for mobile works best on 3G and Wi-Fi networks, but since the quality of any wireless connection can fluctuate, we’ve made it easy to enable or disable Google Instant without ever leaving the page,” says a Google release. You can find a turn-on/turn-off toggle at the bottom of the search page.
The benefit of this service is that it takes some of the pain out of doing Web searches on mobile devices, on which most of us want to type as little as possible. By constantly asking the user “Is this what you want? Is this what you want? Is this what you want?” and eventually arriving at the right answer, it saves keystrokes–and frustration.
If you have an Android 2.2 phone, go to google.com in your phone’s browser and tap the Google Instant Turn on link beneath the search box (if you don’t see that link, try waiting a moment and then refreshing the page).
Google says Instant for Mobile relies on a new Ajax and HTML5 implementation for mobile that dynamically updates the page with new results and eliminates the need to load a new page for each query.
Right now the Instant service is available only for Android 2.2 (“Froyo”) devices, as well as for iPhones and iPods running iOS 4. More mobile platforms will be supported in the near future, Google says.