Google announced an improved interface for its Local Search site for mobile phones today that should help reduce time spent futzing around with your phone’s keyboard. Both of the changes are basically tweaks, but they’re cool examples of connecting your normal web and mobile environments, and of how to design an easy-to-use mobile experience.
The first change integrates Local Search for Mobile with the desktop web interface of Google Maps — starred items from Maps now show up as a category in Local Search. So if you’re planning a trip — whether a set of errands around home or a vacation — you can find and star all the places you want to visit in Maps. Then as you’re out-and-about, you can click on the “starred” area of Local Search and bring up a list of all the locations.
More broadly, Google has made it possible to search for, say, nearby Chinese restaurants without typing anything. You can browse through different Local Search categories, then select “restaurants” and “Chinese.” It’s hardly a revelatory experience, but it’s nice to see another way Google has learned that typing text into a search bar (though that’s still an option in Local Search) isn’t necessarily the best search interface when you’re on your phone. (That’s why it added voice search to its iPhone application.)