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Google Instant could be killer mobile app

But 3G networks remain a hindrance

Google officially introduced its new 'Instant' search for desktop search at an event yesterday in San Francisco, and promised that the service will become available on mobile devices.

This could be a valuable mobile app if the connection speed to the device is fast enough and reliable enough. But that's a very big 'if' on today's 3G networks - Google Instant for mobile might really come of age with faster 4G networks.

Google was showing off a prototype of the mobile app yesterday, and it already looks impressive while connected over Wi-Fi and not 3G.

The app is still in development, so Google is still working out how to best replicate the Google Instant experience for mobile. For instance, on the desktop, if you accept the search term that Google predicts you're about to type out, you just hit the Tab key. But there is no Tab key on most mobile keyboards, so the developers must find another mobile-friendly way to accomplish what the Tab key does on the desktop.

The beauty of Google Instant is that it could save you a lot of typing on your mobile keyboard, which is a hassle - especially if your phone has no physical keyboard.

The search engine's ability to constantly suggest search terms and search results might be extra useful to a mobile user. Being mobile often means running searches to find information you will act upon right now - things like navigating, or trying to find out which restaurants are close by. So a search engine that is actively pushing answers at you in real time seems valuable.

But, again, this all depends on a fast and reliable wireless connection. Google Instant requires a constant communication back and forth between your phone and Google's search servers. Watching Google Instant in action on a wired connection, you notice that it takes a little time for the server to return new search results for each new search term it guesses for you. Google says it takes about 300 milliseconds. But that interval might turn into several seconds or more if your device is using a slow connection. Then the process bogs down, 'instant' is no longer instant, and the new functionality becomes a hindrance instead of an aid.

Instant for mobile, with all its promise, might be yet another mobile app - like videoconferencing or HD video streaming - that can only come of age as new 4G networks proliferate.


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