Google Again Updates iOS App With Improved Maps Integration

New iOS 7 optimized Google Search appOn the heels of a very recent iOS Maps update, Google has further updated and optimized its search app for iOS 7. Some of the changes are cosmetic: “iOS 7 styling and true full screen browsing” for example. There’s also improved image search for the iPad and better integration with Google Maps.

Google Now also seems more “prominent” but I could be mistaken; there are no apparent changes to Google Now on the official “what’s new” list.

Google Maps is nicely integrated into Google search results (I don’t remember the old experience frankly because I infrequently use the Google Search app). By comparison if you’re using the search box in the Safari browser, with Google as default,  you have to endure a less than optimal experience with the HTML version of Google Maps or engage in a two-step process to get to the Google Maps app — assuming it’s installed.

Losing its position as the  ”default” mapping app on the iPhone has hurt Google Maps’ standing among iOS users and in a strange way helped open up space for competition in mapping that wasn’t there when Google was the undisputed, “go-to” mapping tool across smartphone platforms.

According to comScore data Google Maps was the eighth most popular mobile app (Android + iOS) in November. Nielsen had it at number five for the year.

It’s in Google’s interest to make its search app — really a browser (and doorway into the entire Google universe on the iPhone) — into the best possible Google experience for iPhone users. That will motivate people to use it instead of the Safari browser (or Siri + Bing) and make potential Android switching less daunting or jarring.

Google voice search combined with Google Now in the iOS Search app is effectively a Google virtual assistant inside Siri’s domain. That’s not unlike the alien lurking within actor John Hurt in the original 1979 Ridley Scott film Alien.

Hands free search via “Ok Google” and “predictive search” from Google Now are the standout features of the app. I haven’t yet tested image search on the iPad.