Google Unveils Voice Actions and Chrome to Phone, Skips Video Calls
It was shockingly last minute, but Google decided to organize a little press conference today. On the menu were a pair of new features for Android that close a few of the remaining performance gaps between iOS and Google's mobile OS. Although there was no mention of video chat (as many speculated), and although we were denied a peak at the next generation of Android (dubbed Gingerbread), we did get two genuinely useful tools for enhancing your Android experience.
Voice Actions is a voice control application for Android devices running 2.2 (Froyo). The ability to initiate some functions with nothing but the power of your voice is one of the few features iOS could claim that Android lacked. But, rather than simply match Apple's offering and move on, the Voice Actions feature delivers far more flexibility. Simply tap the microphone icon on the search widget, and you can tell the phone to play music, call a contact, or navigate to a destination using Google Maps Navigation. But those are the simpler actions. You can also send e-mails and text messages by speaking a contact's name, and then dictating the message you want to send. If you want to call a business, just say its name, and let Google find the number for you. Check out the video after the break to see it in action.
The other announcement was one that we'd known was coming. Chrome to Phone was announced during the Froyo event a few months back, and allows users to send websites, directions and videos directly to their Android-powered handset. The pushed data is context sensitive, so sending an address will automatically open the navigation app. Naturally, videos from YouTube launch the YouTube app. The Chrome to Phone team specifically said they were looking into developing similar capabilities for other mobile OSes, and, since the code is open, that function should find its way to other browsers soon enough.
Sure, the announcements aren't game changers, but, unlike Facetime, Voice Actions and Chrome to Phone seem genuinely useful. People might appreciate the the ability to send directions to the hospital from their browser to their phone and the flexibility to call you en route -- without having to risk a fine for handling their cell phone.