Google improves mobile local search

The search specialist has improved its UK mobile-search application to make it easier to find local businesses

Google on Wednesday launched its revamped mobile-search service in the UK, streamlining the interface and introducing an experience it believes will be more relevant to mobile-phone users.

Previously, Google's mobile search offered a search box and several radio buttons for different types of results — images, news, the web and so on. Under the new system, Google has mingled all types of results together, and organised it based on what mobile users are most likely to be looking for.

Another tweak is the way the service handles local information — another main interest of mobile users. Previously, to get local search results, a user would have to enter a postcode along with the search terms and then scroll down to the local business listings button. Now, a user has only to enter the postcode once, and all subsequent searches will remember that location. For instance, a search for a term such a restaurant, coffee shop or weather will take users straight to relevant local information.

Mobile search doesn't yet incorporate location awareness, but relies on the user to enter that information. On the other hand, Google Maps for Mobile — an application developed by Google's London-based research team — automatically estimates the user's location based on their nearest mobile mast. Such functionality may eventually be built into mobile search, although Google hasn't officially announced it yet.

"All we've said officially is that we're interested in location for all our mobile services," said a spokesman. "That's clearly the direction we're heading."

The new search service is already available in the US and was soft-launched in the UK last week, giving users an option to try it out. As of Wednesday, the new system is default for all mobile searches in the UK, Canada, France and Germany, Google said.

Google's 80-strong London mobile-development team focuses on standalone mobile applications such as Picasa, Maps, Mail, Calendar, News, Blogger, Reader and Docs, all of which are available to UK mobile users.

The company also has mobile teams in Mountain View, California — responsible for the mobile-search effort — and in Waterloo, Canada.