Google Gesture Search review: Pointlessness at your fingertips

You can now search the contacts on your Android phone using gestures -- but is there any reason to replace a keyboard with our childish scrawls?

The safety-bespectacled boffins at Google Labs have released a new gesture-search app for phones running Android 2.0 or later, such as the Google Nexus One and the Motorola Milestone .

Google Gesture Search is just handwriting recognition -- draw letters on the screen with your finger and it searches your phone. We took it for a test-drive and we were impressed by the implementation, but we're not so sure whether it's actually useful. Note that the app is still in beta, so later versions may be better.

The app did a great job of recognising our childish scrawl, even when we were using it one-handed and writing with our thumbs. The search results, however, were more shotgun than laser-guided sniper rifle.

For example, searching for 'nick' turned up both dapper sub-editor Nick Hide and stylish news-hound Rich Trenholm. While we appreciate that the app might be helping those users who write an 'r' like an 'n' and an 'n' like an 'h', two pages of non-Nicks don't help much for actually narrowing things down. Google Gesture Search also came up with the contact card for one of our mates, but only the direct link to the phone numbers for the rest.

We compared the results to those from the Nexus One's built-in quick-search feature, and found they were very different. The built-in search included only contacts with the letters 'nick' in their names, and a handful of Web-search suggestions.

Google Gesture Search also found applications based on our search term, but we had no luck finding songs, as promised on the app's Web page.

You have to launch the Google Gesture Search app before using it, and we would rather see it embedded as an option in the built-in search, like voice search is. It could be a handy addition to the on-screen keyboard, but as a separate app we don't think it adds enough to be worth launching every time we're looking to call a friend.

The Google Gesture Search app is available from the Android Marketplace or by scanning the QR code at the Google Lab Web site.

 

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