June 23, 2009

a little google in my spotlight?

iPhone search?

I’m very much enjoying iPhone 3.0 and my new 3GS. The new hardware is a great upgrade (faster, smoother, more directionally correct), and there are small details in the new software that are useful and delightful (like locations in the missed call screen).

I haven’t built a habit of searching on the phone, though, despite the very clever swipe-to-go-left UI placement of Spotlight. I don’t have enough content on the phone to make search worthwhile, and the “normal” mode of navigation through each of the individual apps (Contacts, Mail, iPod, etc.) works well enough (for me). I think I’d be swiping left a lot more if they included a little Google in my Spotlight.

Spotlight should still search my phone first of course. But then it should kick off a Google query, pulling in suggest results in as close to real time as a wifi or 3G connection can allow. And then let me preview small snippets of results (optimized in a mobile / “local” context – phone numbers, links to locations, definitions, etc.) before launching either a full search (or the result itself) in Safari.

I don’t think this was a “whoops, we just didn’t think about it” omission from Apple…after all, this is something both the T-Mobile G1 and the Palm Pre feature prominently in their UIs. Instead, I wonder if there were business and/or user experience reasons holding back the feature. On the business side, there’s not an insignificant revenue opportunity associated with occupying the default search slot on the iPhone. And from a user experience perspective, you can bet that Apple will want to make the results from the web feel as natural as results from your phone. Google, of course, is already the default in Safari, so if I were Apple I’d be negotiating for a combination of equal or better terms and a more integrated user experience (richer search API set) for Spotlight.

I’m hoping something like this shows up in a 3.x release. I’d use it all the time.

Update (Jun 24 2009): This is what I’m talking about. From the press release about the newly announced HTC Hero:

HTC Hero also includes a dedicated Search button that goes beyond basic search, providing you with a more natural, contextual search experience that enables you to search through Twitter, locate people in your contact list, find emails in your inbox or search in any other area in Hero.

Apple can’t be leaving this one alone…