Monday, November 24, 2008

iPhone 2.2 and the Google envy

I updated my iPhone to 2.2 during the weekend (still a laborious task, if you want to keep it unlocked and jailbroken, but worth the effort) and I found the new update quite nice. Not that much that I would use, but the Street View of Google Maps is spectacular (although the compass feature of the G1 is even more spectacular).

The thing that caught my attention a lot more, though, was the voice search application launched last Monday by Google. You raise the phone to your ear, it beeps, you say what you are looking for, it beeps again and it gives you the result. No finger needed. Quite awesome.

I tried saying Funambol as a Northern Italian would (yep, there are at least two different ways to say Funambol even in Italy) and the results were hilarious. From football (hey, do the people at Google know everything about me?) to Lambo (as in Lamborghini). Nice.

I tried saying Funambol as a Texan would (not that I know how a Texan speaks but...) and it came out perfectly right. Amazing. Where did they find anyone saying Funambol to match it? A Texan-based robot, I would guess.

If you recall, the app was announced with much fanfare the week before but it took a few days to appear on the App Store. Theories abound but I have my take on this one for a simple reason: I envy Google. Badly.


Because the Google voice search app uses a call to an API that is not publicly available... The app starts recording your voice when you tilt the phone and put close to your ear. The tilt is in the official API, but the "close to your ear" depends on the proximity sensor (the one that turns the screen off when you talk). You cannot control the proximity sensor with the published Apple SDK. No way.

Google uses an unpublished call. They submitted it to the App Store and Apple let them go through, even if they always said they would not allow any application in the App Store that would access unpublished APIs...

Beside explaining why the publication took a few days (Schmidt calling Jobs and saying pleeeease? Jobs calling Schmidt and saying whaaaaaat, show me the money!), it is still a reason for most of us to be upset.

Our community wants to have access to the iPhone calendar badly. But we can't. Even if the version for the jailbroken phones has been mostly developed by the community, I won't ever try to publish it to the App Store. I can't risk Apple to kick our contact sync app out, just because they decide to do so... And I am sure over-the-air calendar sync is an important feature for most iPhone users (who might not want to use MobileMe).

Well, the end result is just that I envy Google. What a novelty.

P.S. I am sure you noticed that the iPhone 2.2. upgrade was made available by Apple the day RIM launched the Storm... What a coincidence! Apparently, Jobs was scared about the Storm and wanted to make sure people remembered that the iPhone is getting better by the day. No need to change, says Apple. I have to agree on this one: if you have a BlackBerry and you want to upgrade, get a Bold... If you do not have a BlackBerry, well, you got a lot of choices these days and the Storm is probably not the best one. Nonetheless, Apple felt the need to fire back, which is a signal: they were worried. That said, I am ready to bet the iPhone will win the Christmas season for smartphones, hands down.