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Google mobile and desktop search updated to include voice, maps, images

Google has rolled out enhancements to its mobile and desktop search engine, including more location-aware features, mobile shortcuts and voice searching.

Google searches are more location-aware and more efficient on mobile devices, and its desktop version now includes voice search, following a rollout of new features. Read Write Web rounds up the enhancements.

Users of Android and iOS handsets using the mobile Google website will now be greeted with a set of icons at the bottom of the screen. These allow you to find various nearby services such as restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, cashpoints, petrol stations and local attractions.

Clicking on an icon or searching for a place brings up results accompanied by a pin map. Scrolling through these results updates the map. Clicking on the map pin opens up the native Google Maps App where users can get directions.

Google has just made it less painful to type in long search queries. It already auto-suggests search terms, but now adds a plus button next to each one so you can tap it to add that phrase to the search box. It's very useful when you have touchscreen keyboard fatigue.

Voice search, which first rolled out on Android phones, is now coming to the desktop. Look for the microphone icon on the Google search home page. This lets you speak your search queries -- useful when you have universal keyboard fatigue and aren't searching for something secret.

Google image search also gets a cool enhancement, with the ability to drag and drop an image from your PC to the search box. This will find links to places online where that image appears. It'll be seriously nifty if it can also find related images. Google Instant is also rolling out to image search.

Finally, the search behemoth wants to reduce website loading times by fetching pages in advance so they're available to you in under a second. Google Instant Pages currently only works in the Chrome browser, but the code is freely available should other browser makers want to include it.

We like the mobile location updates (particularly if it finds us good coffee in new places) and we're happy if people arrive at Crave more quickly than before. What new features do you like the most?