Google's new BlackBerry app scores more points than it loses

Google's Mobile App for BlackBerry is a streamlined effort that sweeps away former home-screen clutter and improves performance.

Google Mobile App for BlackBerry
The new BlackBerry app replaces the ungainly Google Mobile Updater and smartens up search. (Credit: Google)

Current users of Google's Mobile App for BlackBerry will receive an unexpected benefit when upgrading to the latest update to the mobile app: a cleaner home screen.

Announced on Wednesday, the new Google Mobile App for BlackBerry replaces the Mobile Updater package before it, a hub for downloading and updating Google's native BlackBerry apps for news, search, e-mail, and photos that permanently lived on the home screen, along with the separate applications it downloaded and quietly managed.

The new application does away with the extraneous hub by folding its capability to download and update Gmail, Picasa, and so on into a new search app. The result is an application anchored by a search bar that marches a string of icons along the top for downloading or launching BlackBerry-specific apps or mobile Web sites for the panoply of Google apps.

The application's sharper interface and shrunken home-screen footprint are welcome, as is the new and easy way to scroll through search history and repeat it with a click, or to edit a misspelled search term without having to retype it. Google's new mobile app also offers to autocomplete your search queries. It is disappointing, however, that most of the Google apps remain Web-based and have not merited a native application of their own. Gmail, Maps, and Sync, which syncs Google Calendar to the BlackBerry, are each represented by a native download, but clicking Reader, News, and Picasa photos from the new interface launches the appropriate page in the BlackBerry browser.

While the Web-based method does indeed whittle down home-screen clutter and save Google engineers a heap of maintenance work on a software download for each Web app, it also puts users at the disadvantage of getting their news in BlackBerry's bare-bones browser with its questionable readability. I'd personally rather spare my eyes than a pocketful of memory, and am therefore less likely to use the quick access icons. Still, as the new app's more compact interface and smarter search and history push Google's BlackBerry app in the right direction, I'd recommend making the switch. Download Google Mobile App for BlackBerry by pointing your phone's browser to

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.