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January 14, 2008

Google Prepares for a Better Mobile Web

One reason why Google and other companies develop interfaces optimized for iPhone is that people actually use Apple's phone to browse the web. New York Times (free login) reports that "on Christmas, traffic to Google from iPhones surged, surpassing incoming traffic from any other type of mobile device (...). A few days later, iPhone traffic to Google fell below that of devices powered by the Nokia-backed Symbian operating system but remained higher than traffic from any other type of cellphone."

Google has another reason for providing special interfaces for iPhone: they'll work on Android phones too, since Android's default browser uses the same rendering engine as Apple's Safari, namely WebKit.

Today, in the first day of MacWorld, Google will announce an update for its unified mobile interface, codenamed Grand Prix. Among the new features, the navigation bar will be customizable, Gmail will automatically show new messages without having to refresh the page, the compose page will include contacts, while Google Calendar will add a month-at-a-glance view. The updated iGoogle will probably be integrated in the interface.

"Google, which developed the first version of Grand Prix in six weeks, is introducing a new version on Monday, just six weeks after the first one. That is a speed of development not previously possible on mobile phones," said Vic Gundotra, vice-president at Google.

Vic Gundotra expects that "consumers are going to demand Internet browsers [as good as Apple's]" and the mobile web experience will improve.

From a Google announcement (my emphasis): "These new features provide iPhone users with a desktop-like Google web application experience in terms of ease-of-use, speed, and feature richness but optimized for the iPhone. This experience is made possible by the iPhone's general usability and the capabilities of its web browser, combined with Google's innovative mobile web applications. We plan to expand this experience to international versions of the iPhone and to other platforms that offer similar usability and browser capabilities. One of our goals is to support platforms that are fulfilling the promise of the mobile web - like the iPhone - and to ultimately deliver unique and compelling mobile experiences that improve people's daily lives."

Update 2: Google Mobile Blog has some screenshots of the updated interface.


  1. Google mobile this and Google mobile that. It's alls o much hot air until they rectify one of the gaping holes in their mobile implementation: syncing of GMail contacts to your mobile phone. There is no API and Google refuse to provide one despite years of users asking for this nobrainer.

  2. WTF Google. Guess us Windows Mobile users (outnumbering iPhone users by far) are SOL. No native calendar sync, IMAP for Gmail that is buggy, no contact sync...nice.

  3. I'm in agreement with the first two comments...I don't understand why Google has made extra efforts in the direction of the iPhone and Blackberries (with Google Sync) but they're still overlooking Windows Mobile apps and improvements. It's been around for longer and it's got a ton of users.

    It's definitely frustrating considering how well they've shown they can do with services like Google Maps and mobile versions of Google Reader, Gmail, etc. Clearly they're capable, so I don't get why they wouldn't put any serious focus on improving the Windows Mobile experience...they've certainly had plenty of time to do so if they were going to.

  4. I am so happy to have the iPhone. Its not just google but loads of other websites offering special interface on iPhone. I think Google wants to build apps on their platform (mostly web+browser) rather than going after Windows Mobile. iPhone's web rendering is what Google likes. I am not sure if Windows Mobile has same kind of flexibility.

  5. How about some love for us Blackberry users Google? I will say that I love the GMail app, Mail by Google app, and the GMaps; however the current version of mobile Reader blows hard. Perhaps Google should look in to acquiring Viigo, now that would make me happy.

    Seriously, I can't see why Google isn't pouring resources in to the mobile web experience for the huge base of Blackberry users out there.

  6. There is maybe one reason why Google does not role out those fancy web apps to Windows Mobile... Pocket Internet Explorer sucks!
    With the WebKit based iPhone and Android browsers we are starting to have, at long last, a real mobile web browser.
    Besides, there is the "cool factor", which WM devices lack...