by Bill Snyder

Google Makes Mobile Search and Translation Faster and Easier

Apr 23, 20133 mins
Consumer ElectronicsMobileMobile Apps

Need to make yourself understood in a foreign language but can't get online? Google's offline translation for Android makes it easy. The search king has also beefed up mobile search features.

Mobile search is about two things – speed and convenience. The more taps you need to make on a small screen, the more chances you have to mess up and slow yourself down. So Google has released two new enhancements that will help you find what you’re looking for quicker and with fewer misplaced taps — even if, like me, you have big, not-so-agile fingers.

Google also has done something very cool with its translate function for Android; now you can find out how to say “Where’s the bathroom?” in Turkish or many other languages even if you’re not connected to the Internet.

But first; the new mobile search functions.

Say you’re thinking about going to the movies here in San Francisco. Naturally, you’ll type in something like “movies in San Francisco” and probably get a list of various sites containing listings and all sorts of extraneous information. With the new search feature, you’ll see a screen that looks like the screenshot I made below. If it were a live screen, you’d be able to scroll through the thumbnail movie posters at the top and get a list of theaters and times when the show is playing. Very handy.

Google calls this “expandable site links” and says they will appear for many (though not all) sites to help you get to a specific section quickly.

Also starting today, on some searches you’ll see a blue “Quick view” badge next to a few Wikipedia results. Say your kid asks you something about the Mexican American War and the President who started it — James K. Polk. Simply search on his name and a Wikipedia entry with one of those blue badges comes up and there you’ll find the essentials. Not a great way to get deep knowledge, but in a pinch, you’ll get right to an entry with at least some of the information you’ll need.

Google says Quick view is experimental and the company is working to expand it to more sites.

Now, about finding that Turkish bathroom. If you don’t have an Internet connection, sites like Google translate can’t help. But if you have an Android phone and know you’ll be knocking about Turkey, fire up Google Translate on Android (version 2.3 or later) and install the offline pack for Turkish and you’ll quickly find that you need to say “Banyo nerede?”  About 50 languages are supported. Translate will even read the phrase aloud to you, so you’ll have some chance of being understood.

Needless to say, your phone doesn’t have room to store a huge dictionary, so Google notes that the offline packs are hardly comprehensive. On the other hand, it could very useful when you can’t get online and need to make yourself understood in a hurry.