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If you’ve used Google search from an Android device to search for a business, you’ve probably noticed the two interesting “buttons” to the right of the search listing - “Get Directions” and a button for the phone number. It turns out, these are pretty easy to implement.

The “Get Directions” link is a simple link to Google Maps like This One. The links are actually pretty simple:

<a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?daddr=42+Pierce+Ave%2C+Midland+Park%2C+NJ+07432">Get Directions</a>

It just uses a regular Google Maps URL, with the destination address encoded. When the link is clicked in the Android browser, a dialog pops up asking the user whether he wants to open it with the browser or the Maps application. If Maps is selected, it automatically opens with the address from the URL in the destination input box, the phone’s current location as the start input, and gives easy access to directions and navigation.

The telephone links are a bit more interesting. Apparently, the Android browser uses the Phone app to handle the “tel” scheme, as defined by RFC 3966.Therefore, clicking a link like:

<a href="tel:2015555555">201-555-5555</a>

on Android will bring up the Phone app and pre-enter the digits for 2015555555. Luckily, it doesn’t automatically dial the number. If you want to give it a try and are using Android: 201-555-5555.

The final step is how to implement this. I don’t know if most mobile browsers (Blackberry? iPhone?) also support the “tel” URI scheme, or how they’ll handle Google Maps links. But if you’re looking to include Android-specific content, the user agent string from my Motorola Droid (Android 2.0) looks like:

Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U;Android 2.0; en-us; Droid Build/ESD20) AppleWebKit/530.17 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/530.17

I know that there are a number of PHP classes out there to detect browsers (like Chris Schuld’s browser.php) and some things to detect mobile device capabilities (like WURFL or Tera WURFL, both using the WURFL data). However, if you just need to know whether your user is on Android or not, I’d personally recommend just checking the user agent string for “Linux”, “Android” and “WebKit” until a better browser identification system is found, as these are not likely to change in the near future.


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