Google has announced a Mandarin version of its voice search feature for mobile phones, the company has announced.
It is the first non-English version of the voice search feature, which Google has offered since last November.
The new app would be available for Android-based phones “in the next few weeks” in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China, said Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering on Thursday.
It will also be available as a free iPhone and Symbian Series 60 app, he said.
The app is linked to Google’s search engine, including images and maps. In demonstrations before press in Beijing on Thursday, a regular query or a lengthy street address query returned a result within five seconds.
Gundotra said the speech-to-text search was faster than typing and suits the on-the-fly nature of the way people use their mobile phones. It is especially suited to developing markets such as China, which has 600 million mobile users and about 100 million PC owners.
The announcement, to a rare Asian press briefing, underscores the importance of both the China and mobile markets to Google. The US search giant has been anchored on about 20% of the China search market, well behind market leader Baidu.
Google won’t disclose any data on the performance of its English voice search to date, or how many resources had been put into its development.
But Gundotra said the voice search was a result of a breakthrough by Google Research and the company was working to expand the product to other languages.