This past week, Google Maps has seen a number of changes, especially to the mobile version, with voice search being amongst the most important. First, turn by turn navigation for Android devices was made available for the UK and Ireland. Now a “Search by Voice” feature for Google Maps 4.1 for Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 phones is out. That’s in addition to Google adding a Buzz layer to Maps, as well as revamping their Google Local Business Center as Places, the latter of which could have a positive impact on mobile LBS (Location-Based Services) applications.
With the intersection of ‘location’ and ‘mobile’ being a huge opportunity right now and for the forseeable future, plus recent rumors of Apple building their own Maps product for iPhone OS devices, it’s not surprising that Google is doing whatever they can to add extra features for Google Maps. Search by Voice, in particular is the type of killer app that, if marketed properly, sells phones. From the looks of it, Google Voice search features are available on Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian. Palm WebOS and iPhone devices do have Google Voice, but not for map search and not as native apps, only through an HTML5 website.
What’s even more interesting is that the new map search by voice features for Windows Mobile and Symbian includes option for different languages, including varying English accents and Mandarin. As an iPhone and Palm handset owner who is mobile a fair bit, I’m wishing I had similar features (though I tend to be my wife’s navigator when she drives, which is the safest approach we can find). At least I can use Trapster on my iPhone and iPad for routing my trips.