Go-Go Gadget: Android Phones Get New Voice Action

Photo: Go Go Gadget! Android Phones Gets Voice Action: Voice Action Features Lets Users Text, E-Mail, Search and More Without Typing

Google's newest feature lets you channel your inner Inspector Gadget.

Owners of Android phones can already initiate Google searches by voice, but a new "Voice Actions" feature, unveiled today, lets Android users do so much more.

Just by speaking into their phones, Android owners will be able to send text messages and e-mail, call contacts, browse the Web and complete other basic tasks.

"Our mobile phones have become modern-day Swiss Army knives. An Android phone is a handheld computer, a music player, a notepad, an alarm clock, a GPS navigation unit and more, all rolled into one sleek device that fits in your pocket. Today's phones do so many things for us that sometimes we don't even think about how we do them," said Google in a blog post today. "Even though our phones do all these new things, the most natural way of interacting with a phone remains what it always has been: speaking. And to that end, we're pleased to introduce Voice Actions for Android."

To use the feature, you tap the microphone button on the Google search box on the home screen, or press down the search button on the phone, to activate a "Speak Now" screen. Then you just speak your command.

Voice Actions Runs on Operating System Pre-Installed on New Droid 2

If you're on your way to meet a friend but you're behind schedule, all you have to do is say, "Send text to Ned: 'I'm running 10 minutes late.'"

Or, if an out-of-town family member doesn't know where to go, you could say, "Send e-mail to Kate directions to Central Park" -- and voila! it's done.

You can also send yourself reminder notes, set alarms, call up different websites and select music – all with the power of your voice.

Voice Actions only runs on the latest Android operating system (Android 2.2 or Froyo), which is pre-installed on the new Droid 2 smartphone, which Motorola and Verizon released today.

As long as they have the Android 2.2 operating system, users with older phones (like the HTC Evo, the Nexus One or the first Droid) can turn their phones into "go-go-gadgets" by downloading a few application updates from Google's application market.

According to Google, they'll need to download Voice Search (which includes Voice Actions), Google's Search widget and Clock app, and music applications (for example, Pandora, Last.fm, Rdio and mSpot).

Research Firm: Android Phones Showing Growth Among Smartphone Users

Google today also released a "Chrome to Phone" feature that lets Android owners quickly send links, maps and other information from their desktops and laptops straight to their phones.

The new extension adds a button to your Chrome browser that, once clicked, sends the link of whatever you're looking at to any Android phone running the Android 2.2 operating system.

"Suppose you're reading an interesting article on your favorite news website and need to leave for an urgent appointment. Simply click the extension icon in your browser to send the link to your phone and the device's browser will automatically open the link, ready for you to view on the go," Google said. To activate it, you have to install the extension in your Chrome browser and download the application to your phone.

Google's newest Android features come just as the media research firm Nielsen reports that sales of Android phones are leapfrogging sales of the iPhone and BlackBerry.

According to Nielsen, Android phones have shown the most growth in market share among current smartphone owners. In the last quarter, Nielsen also said Android surpassed Apple to draw a 27 percent share of recent smartphone owners.

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