iPhone to Google: Thank you!

So...I've been spending quality time with my iPhone since the release of the iPhone 2.2 Software Update and the separate upgrade of Google Mobile App. The bottom line: Although I wouldn't have believed it possible, my iPhone is now exponentially more useful -- and fun to use -- than it was before. I've started randomly stopping strangers on the street just so I can show off the phone's latest cool features. Okay, maybe not strangers on the street, but at least close friends that stop by my house.

And here's the thing: Apple should send a thank-you note to Google. Because all of what's especially great about what's new in the iPhone comes from Google.

First up is the Google Mobile App. Its major enhancement is Voice Search. Just put the iPhone to your ear (as if you were answering a call), wait for the "Speak now" tone and speak your request. It's that simple -- and amazingly accurate. I tried entering the name of some local restaurants and consistently got the correct results on my first try.

As covered in more detail in this Macworld article, Mobile App is location-aware and uses this to offer some great time-savers. For example, if you say "movie times," it knows to display the movies and times for theaters near you. The movie results aren't nearly as complete as when using a separate movie app, such as Showtimes (it will likely take some more searching in Mobile App to get the exact info you want), but it's still quite impressive.

As a final bonus, if you request a map and get a link to Google maps in the results, tapping the map link takes you directly to the iPhone's Maps application, rather than Safari. From here, you are all set to take advantage of the new Maps features in iPhone 2.2 Update Software (how's that for a segue?).

The Maps app, although part of Apple's default iPhone software, was developed in tandem with Google. The absolutely best new feature in the new Maps is the option to shift from driving directions to directions for walking and/or public transit. For example, I asked it to tell me how to go from my home in the East Bay to the Apple Store at Powell Street in San Francisco. It directed me to the nearest bus which then took me to the nearest BART station. Maps told me which BART train to take and even when the next one was due to arrive. And so on. As with driving directions, you can step your way through the entire sequence, with the map appropriately re-centered for each step. Wow!

The new Maps app also offers Google's Street View. You typically access it by tapping on the new icon that appears inside the flag attached to a dropped pin. By doing so, you get a navigable 360 degree photo-view of the selected location. Impressive, and more useful in a portable device such a iPhone than when viewed from a Mac on your desktop. Still, I have found Street View to be more eye candy than practical.

Combine all these features into a package and you have a fantastic early holiday gift from Google to Apple -- and from Apple to you. Consider this my thank-you note to everyone involved.