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Google unveils Android apps for voice, desktop sync

Android users can now dictate actions on the phone--like dialing or e-mailing--with their voices, and link their phones with their Chrome desktop browser.

Updated 11:10 a.m. PDT and 12:18 p.m with new information.

Google released two new Android applications Thursday that let users dictate actions to their phones and link their phones with information from their desktop Chrome browser.

The company held a press conference Thursday morning at its offices in San Francisco to discuss the new mobile announcements, and it kicked off the day by explaining that advances in wireless connectivity and processing power on smartphones are allowing powerful mobile applications to take advantage of cloud computing. Given that one out of every four search requests on Android phones is coming from the voice search feature, voice "actions" seemed like a natural progression, said Hugo Barra, director of mobile product management at Google.

Google demonstrated several of those actions Thursday. (See embedded video below.) For example, you can dial the phone by hitting the microphone button at the top of the Android home page and say "Call Tom Krazit." You can send an e-mail or text by saying "e-mail or text Tom Krazit tell him this story is terrible."

All in all, there are 12 voice actions in the app, not including voice Web search, which has been around for a while. One of the more interesting ones is "note to self," which generates an e-mail sent to yourself after you hit the microphone button and say "note to self" followed by the text of your note.

The other new feature links a Chrome browser with a new extension on a desktop with a new extension to Android phones. This allows someone looking up driving directions on the desktop, for example, to click a little mobile phone icon in his or her Chrome extensions list and have that information sent to the Android phone, where it will automatically launch that particular application.

Google's Dave Burke built this tool in his 20 percent time, the company's famous policy of allowing employees to work on projects outside of their usual duties. It takes advantage of Cloud to Device Messaging feature that Google announced for Android at Google I/O earlier this year.

Both applications should be available in the Android Market on Thursday. They'll both require Android 2.2, and the voice actions app (U.S. English only for now) will come preinstalled on the Droid 2 phone.

Google would like to put the voice actions app on other phones--such as the iPhone--but it hasn't submitted a version of this app to Apple as of yet, Barra said. Google's iPhone application allows you to search the Web using your voice but doesn't come with all the voice action features introduced Thursday at the press conference. Earlier this year, Apple bought a company called Siri that developed an iPhone application that does many of these same things.