Google Features We're Still Waiting To See In Australia

Google Shopping arrived at last in Australia earlier this week. That's a welcome development, but it also served to remind us that there are still some services which Google doesn't offer down under. Here are the five we most want to see on the fast-track list.

I do try and keep a sense of perspective about this. While we rarely get first access to new Google features, they will usually appear for Australia well before they migrate into other languages. Many options can be accessed by using Google's non-country specific page. And most of these products are free, so complaining excessively seems, well, excessive.

That said, Google is always quick to boast about projects whose development first happened in Australia, like Google Maps. (Though that was also true of Google Wave, which did not work out so well.) But even local development doesn't guarantee local delivery -- we got turn-by-turn directions on Android way after the rest of the world.

I realise that Australia is a smaller market and we're rarely going to get services at the same time as the US. But Australia is the audience I write for, so I have to stand up for what Aussies need. Thus if Google has an internal priority list for local features, I'm really hoping this stuff is on it.

5. Barcode support for shopping searches

As readers were quick to point out earlier this week, while we might now have a shopping search option, there's still no support for barcode scanning via Android for Australian products. As we noted recently, barcode support is a real challenge across the board in Australia, and one big factor is that getting the data can be expensive. But if we were looking for a company with deep pockets, Google would be high on the list.

4. Better prediction features

Google recently enhanced its autocomplete prediction technology to make guesses based on every word in a query, not just the beginning of what you type. It would be great to see this appear on the Australian site.

3. More robust specialised searches

Sometimes when Google builds a search option designed to highlight particular kinds of information, it doesn't make it flexible enough. Take postcodes. We've noted before that if you search for a place name followed by the word postcode, Google will return the answer as a snippet ahead of search results, saving you having to click through to another page. However, the process doesn't work in reverse; if you type postcode placename, that doesn't happen. Surely that could be fixed pretty easily?

2. Nationwide public transport directions on Maps

This one isn't Google's fault; it's largely to do with recalcitrant state transport organisations not wanting to open up their data. So while we have very welcome public transport directions on Google Maps for Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Cairns, it isn't an option for our three most populous cities: Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. (We were promised Brisbane last year, but nothing seems to have happened.)

1. Google Voice outside the US

Yes, with a little cheating you can get a Google Voice number in Australia, but its usefulness is somewhat restricted, especially if you don't want to make lots of calls to US numbers. What would be truly awesome is the ability to get a local Australian number that integrated with the other Google Voice features such as redirecting your calls, transcribing messages and full-scale Gmail integration. I suspect we will be waiting a long time for this to happen, but a boy can dream.

Which international Google features would you like to see rolled out in Australia? Let's see a list in the comments.


Comments

    I agree with the sentiment that while as a first world country with a competitive economy, it is disappointing to be left behind so frequently when compared to other western countries. Let’s not forget that Google isn’t a sole offender here – this has been the case for decades across almost all levels of business.

    Siding with Google, in many cases, it isn’t and simple us just putting the service straight onto their .com.au domain, as we have our own economy, and geography which is unique. In the case of Google Maps Navigation though, I could never understand why Google were unable to implement it here sooner, when Brut Mod was able to force local turn-by-turn navigation months ahead.

    Of the top 5, only two of these points serve as an annoyance to me (ironically the top and bottoms ones respectively).

    Barcode search would be particularly nice, especially if this could be implemented to include overseas pricing as we have a particularly strong economy at the moment.

    Google Voice is a big one. I was able to activate it on my primary Google account, but really it’s currently useless for anything other than making calls to or from other US numbers. Google’s concept of combining all your phone numbers into one solitary number is a unique one, but from my experience so far, almost all mobile phone owners that I know of have adopted their mobile number as the sole source of telephony 99% of the time.

    The problem with public transport maps/timetables is they are actually owned by Metlink Melbourne Pty. Ltd. and they won't give them out to people, hence why the public transport info for Melbourne is pretty crappy.

    I whole-heartedly agree with the barcode scanning shopping though. Or even just make available a public UPC list for Australian UPCs please! Right now there's nothing, I've got a list of Barcodes of my DVD collection, and no way to associate that with actual DVD names.

    how about the cycle option on google maps.
    we only get car and walking modes.

    Youtube movie rentals.
    VOD is the way people are going tp watch TV, and australia is being left behind. Youtube is the big name in online video, and I can forsee they will develop it with an API so manufacturers can build youtube rental in video players and TVs. We've got such limited options here for video streaming, So I'm desperate for yotube to start streaming to australia.

    Google Checkout for merchants. You can buy online in Australia with Google Checkout, but you can only sell in Australia if you are selling on the Android Market, otherwise you need a US or UK account.

    you forgot google checkout

    This is called culture lag and in pre computer days US magazines took 3 months to filter to Australia. Likewise, new products took about 3 to 6 months.

    I suspect that US retailers aren't interested in selling to a small market (Australia) and are imported by Australin importers at a significant markup.

    Evwn if you import something it often took 6 weeks, I haven't impored anything recently so this might have changed.

    Annoyingly, some companies refuse to sell overseas and you have to use a US forwarder. I don't know if there are legal reasons for this. I suspect there is some regulatory hurdle that small companies are not prepared to undertake.

    The reason why turn-by-turn navigation took a while to ship here was typical: Google had licensed Map data but the licence terms didn't include navigation.

    To make it legal, they had to replace some data and relicense other.

    Canberra was promised public transport directions back in 2009, but it still hasn't happened. Might be time to stop linking back to that old lifehacker article...

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