Google Goggles for iPhone review: first-look

Google has issued an update for its iPhone app that brings the company’s “Goggles” service to the handset. In addition to using text or voice commands to search Google, Goggles allows you to snap photos using the iPhone’s camera and use these snaps as the basis of your search.

Google Goggles for iPhone review: first-look

To test the app, I performed a series of nine searches using my iPhone’s camera. You can see the photos, which are stashed in my search history, below:

Google Goggles grid

Here’s how the search engine got on with my photos (starting from the bottom right-hand corner, and working upwards from right to left):

1. PC Pro magazine cover

Goggles got off to a rather flaky start, using its OCR software to mistakenly identify the magazine by the headline rather than the PC Pro logo. Hence the search results pointed us towards a Spanish bank. Verdict: miss.

2. PC Pro magazine logo

We decided to give Goggles a second bite of the PC Pro cherry, this time zooming in on the magazine’s logo rather than attempting to scan the cover as a whole. This worked a treat. Not only did Google match the logo to the one on our website, it returned as the top search result. Verdict: hit.

3. Dell XPS M1330 laptop

This is my day-to-day laptop and Goggles did an impressive job of nailing it down. Admittedly, the lead search result was for an XPS M1530, but Goggles was largely relying on the image of the keyboard to identify the laptop, and the M1530 has an identical keyboard to my model. Impressive stuff. Verdict: hit.

4. Nabaztag rabbit

My colleague Nicole Kobie has a defunct Nabaztag rabbit sitting on her desk, for reasons I’m yet to fathom. Nevertheless, it’s a distinctive product and one that Goggles should have no problem identifying. Should. Inexplicably, it returned a search result for Burton snowboards. Verdict: miss.

5 & 6. Apple iMac

Nobody could accuse Apple of not producing distinctive kit. Yet, Goggles had immense trouble identifying the iMac. The first time it returned image results for some Gothic-looking animation, and at the second attempt it identified Apple’s all-in-one as a rally car. Verdict: Double miss.

7. Talk of the Town

Google boasts that Goggles is particularly adept at searching for books, and credit where credit’s due, it did a fine job of identifying Ardal O’Hanlon’s excellent – if now rather aged – 1998 book Talk of the Town. The first search result even sent us to Amazon to buy a copy. Verdict: hit.

8. Twinings Green Tea

A tea round in the PC Pro office is a nightmare: if it’s not Tim’s cinnamon monstrosities wafting across the office, it’s some other herbal nonsense, such as this pack of green tea sitting on the news desk. Goggles failed to identify the exact product, but the OCR picked out the Twinings brand and sent us scurrying to the company’s website, which was close enough. Verdict: hit.

9. Darien Graham-Smith

In Google’s defence, Goggles specifically states that it’s unlikely to recognise animals or people. But we couldn’t resist, so I snapped a photo of PC Pro’s charming technical editor and Goggles returned this:


Verdict: Miss (although a massive hit amongst the PC Pro team).

FINAL SCORE: So, out of a total of nine searches, Goggles produced the correct result in four. Looks like Sergey and Larry might have let this one out of the labs a little prematurely.

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