Google edges into the mobile download game

Starting Wednesday, you can search Google.com for an iPhone or Android app, and get a shortcut to download it.

With nearly every smartphone manufacturer and carrier creating its own application storefront for downloading mobile apps, we suppose it was only a matter of time before Google got into the game one way or another.

Starting Wednesday, searching Google.com for iPhone and Android apps--from your iPhone or Android phone--will likely yield a mobile app as its result. The trick, it seems, is to enter the magic word, "download," before the name of the app you seek.

The resulting link and surround context, like a star rating and number of user reviews, isn't a direct download URL per se. More accurately, tapping the Google result opens the app's corresponding product page in the Android Market or in the iPhone's App Store.

Google isn't promising that app searches will work for every Android or iPhone title, but its uber-engine should populate results for popular and highly rated apps. The one remaining question we have is why someone would intentionally favor Google.com as an app resource rather than the phone's built-in storefront, particularly if the Web search leads to that marketplace anyhow.

We will concede that a voice search for the app we wanted to download was a convenient way to get to the market's download page without having to lift a typing finger, but the principle of tagging onto Google's Web search engine to get to a native app still seems like a roundabout route.

For now, Google.com's mobile application search results are U.S. only for iPhones and Android phones, with plans on the horizon to expand the app indexing to more countries and devices.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.

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