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Google overhauls its iOS app in search of iPad users

Google's got a new version of its search app for iOS, offering users a way to very quickly search and view content unlike how they can in Apple's built-in Safari browser.

Google's nifty new side by side viewer puts results and pages right next to one another.
Google's nifty new side-by-side viewer puts results and pages right next to one another.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google's doubling down on its efforts to pull iOS users into frequent searchers with a new iPad-centric version of its search app.

The new version, released today as a free update to the company's universal iOS app (iTunes), gives iPad users on iOS 4 or higher a handful of new features, and put Google's app in tighter competition with Apple's built-in Safari browser.

The app now includes Google Instant, so that search results stream in as you type. Google's coupled this with its Instant Preview technology, giving users a quick look at a destination site without having to load it. These results show up in a string of previews, similar to what can be found with Google's overhauled image search carousel, the one that lets you swipe through images like you would music albums in Apple's Cover Flow view.

Here's what that looks like:

Google's new image carousel lets you flick through images on your iPad.
Google's new image carousel lets you flick through images on your iPad. Stephen Shankland/CNET

One other big change is in how Google now bundles pages you're on with the results, putting the two side by side. Microsoft attempted something similar with its Bing app for iPad earlier this year, and the result is effectively the same here. You can hop back and scan both pages without having to reload either one, which can be extremely handy.

Other noteworthy tweaks include the addition of a +1 button for sharing on social networks like Google's own Google+, as well as an on-page search tool, which lets you look up a word or phrase on any page you're viewing. This is something you can do on the built-in Safari browser using the search box, but it's not as apparent as Google's made it here.

Much like I wrote when having a go with Microsoft's Bing app for iPad earlier this year, it's clear that Google's up to some of the same tricks. It's taken aim at the stock Safari browser by offering an experience that's tuned in to users who want a desktop-like searching experience, but on their mobile device. Where Microsoft differs is in pitching its app as a content aggregator, whereas Google continues to position its app as a launch pad for its various properties. That's certainly not a bad thing in this case, where search and reading go hand in hand.

Below is a demo video from Google on the new features: