Back in July I wrote a post on Google and their batch of new apps for iOS. While Apple made it clear that Google would be owning a little less real estate on iPhones and iPads with the fall release of iOS 6, Google fired back with a couple of apps that were sure to make a statement. Google still wants to be on iOS, even if Apple doesn’t want them to be. They finally released Chrome, which is arguably one of the best browsers available for iOS. They also came out with a Google Drive client that gave limited access to Drive documents much like the popular Dropbox app for iOS.
A couple of weeks ago, Google updated the Drive app to allow with fairly simple word processing and spreadsheet creation and editing. This is a big jump for Google, up until now, there has been little to no Google Docs capabilities on anything other than a desktop browser. And while Google Docs aren’t likely to be a replacement for Word or Excel, it’s nice to see this functionality on mobile, and especially cross-platform within Android and iOS.
Alongside this Drive update on iOS, they’ve just updated the YouTube app to fully take advantage of the iPhone 5’s widescreen. They’d already released the updated app available from the App Store following their native app’s removal by Apple with the release of iOS 6. Now app officially supports AirPlay, whereas before the OS-level mirroring was the only AirPlay functionality available for the YouTube app.
Google also added a Chrome update to the App Store this week that added some bug fixes as well as Passbook integration.
Earlier this month, Google debuted their new and improved Siri competitor on iOS in their official search app. I’m not exactly sure if she has a name, but she sound leaps and bounds better than Siri. Although on iOS she has no capabilities outside of the Google app, what she can do she does very well, and in some situations better than Siri. The new voice search seems much more intuitive than Siri. The voice recognition seems to be a tad better than Siri, but not by much.
Searching for movies, weather, flight info, and miscellaneous reference questions is a breeze. As you speak, the app shows you what the recognition is picking up in real time. This is unlike Siri, which simply listens to you, thinks for a few seconds, and spits out what it has recognized. One of the biggest setbacks of the app and it’s stellar voice search is it’s powerful capability of being able to interpret directions, although there’s no Google Maps app on iOS [yet]. Thus, asking for directions will simply bring you to a search results page, and it will fetch the directions via maps.google.com in Safari. bleh.
And lastly, Google finally released an update for their Gmail app on iOS, which up until now has been very mediocre. As soon as I started using the app, I tweeted that this app would finally be able to replace the Mail app on iOS for me. The Mail app is good, and I know there are better apps like Sparrow — which are paid apps — but I refuse to pay to replace something that already gets the job done. Now I think i can say the Gmail app has reached a level to which it can replace the Mail app if you’re a Gmail user.
With this update, the Gmail app now finally supports multiple account support, so I can now have my three Gmail accounts without having to sign in or out every time. This new app looks great, it takes the same style cues that Google has been implementing in their other apps, notably, the Google+ and Search apps. There’s swipe to archive, and emails are presented as conversations as you’d expect in the desktop version of Gmail. Other than that, the app is pretty simple. but all of the necessities are there now. The one thing that most users might miss, is a unified inbox. This is something I’ve become very accustomed to using the native iOS Mail app, but only having two main Gmail accounts that I use day to day makes that ok. Notifications also seem to work just as well on iOS as they do with the Mail app as well.
Now all that’s missing on iOS from Google is an official maps app.