Many Android users have long taken advantage of the benefits of Google Now, the search giant’s partial answer to Siri. Google Now brings info from all of a user’s various Google accounts into a single place, and couples with the Google Search app for voice-powered search, Google Maps integration and a host of other features to create a virtual card deck that brings increased functionality to a user’s smartphone. Google Now is finally available to iPhone and iPad users via an update to the Google Search app released on Monday.
Google Now essentially turns a user’s smartphone into a personal assistant. By integrating the standard Google search features with voice search and various cards. The cards are live widgets that display all manner of relevant information: and users are almost able to keep track of all aspects of their lives in a single place. Twenty-two of Google Now’s 29 cards are available to iOS users, with the only major holdouts being information related to Zillow, Fandango movie tickets, local events, and airline boarding passes.
Apple users can download the app or the update for free in the Apple App Store. But since Apple has its own similar services, why resort to using Google? Well, TechnologyGuide has spent some time testing the Google Now service on an iPhone 4 and has come to the conclusion it’s well worth the time and effort. Here are five reasons why.
Simple and Friendly UI
The Google Now cards are a feature of the Google Search app. When it comes to user interfaces, Google keeps things simple. The Google Search app features large tiles, bright colors, and a lack of extra stuff floating around the screen to make the service a pleasure to use. It invokes simple swipe gestures to get rid of cards users you don’t want to look at anymore, and a user can swipe up or down to switch from search mode to card view.
When in search mode, the app looks almost identical to the web browser, but includes three different keys on the bottom of the page. The apps button gives users quick access to a host of other Google services, the Voice key is in the middle while the Goggles function is on the right. Goggles allows users to take a picture of their surroundings and Google will then provide information about nearby restaurants and attractions(a great feature for frequent travelers). Users can also easily access their most recent search via the arrow in the top right corner of the screen.
The Google Now cards are even simpler to use and function beautifully. The cards have limited graphics, allowing the information to be displayed in its most organic form, which makes it easy to follow. Users simply scroll through the cards as they would a Twitter feed for all the most pertinent information, and they can swipe away unwanted cards or refresh at the bottom of the feed for additional cards.
High Level of Usability
Google Now provides users with almost unlimited ways to use the service. Users have access to any and all information they could want and even more they didn’t know they wanted, at the touch of a finger.
Cards will display the current weather, updates from a user’s favorite sports teams, real-time traffic information, the next calendar appointment and Google+ friend’s birthdays, among other information. Google Now syncs with all of a user’s Google accounts, including Search, Calendar, Gmail, Maps and even a user’s Chrome history. The service will scan through the information a user’s puts into the various accounts (like a frequent search on Chrome) to pull out and provide pertinent information before it’s even asked for. In short, Google knows a lot more about its users than one might think.
If a user receives a confirmation email about a package to a Gmail account, Google Now will track the shipment and display the information in a card. With a confirmation email about a restaurant reservation, Google Now will provide users with directions to the restaurant and even remind them when it’s time to leave. The calendar integration allows users to quickly and easily see what’s next up on the docket for the day and will remind users when it’s time to leave for meetings and provide information on how long it will take to get there.
Google Now also features a group of cards that are more than helpful when traveling. Even without the boarding pass card, the software will still scan through a user’s email for information on flights and will hand out real-time updates on flight status and traffic to the airport. When traveling to a different time zone, it will provide users with a helpful reminder of the time at home. It will also show currency rates and provide quick translations when traveling abroad.
Additionally, users can access other Google apps straight from the Google Now interface, including Google Drive, Gmail, YouTube, Google+, Chrome and Maps.
Don’t care about the latest sports scores or stock market updates? Don’t want Google Now patrolling your Gmail for information? That’s fine; all the cards have the option to be turned off. The settings menu is located in the bottom right hand corner of the card feed and gives users the ability to turn cards on and off and in some cases, even further customize the results. Users can dictate when the weather card is included and what location the weather information is for (home, work, where you are), Users can enter their home and work addresses into the traffic section and dictate when they’d like the traffic card to be displayed.
Users who are interested in sports can add favorite teams to a list. Stocks, news updates, movie information and public alerts are all easy to turn off. Users are also able to customize what information Google Now will pull from their Gmail accounts, which is a nice option for those worried about privacy.
Must Have (If you don’t have Siri)
Apple users who haven’t upgraded devices in a while and still have the iPhone 3Gs or iPhone 4 don’t have access to Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant. The Google Search app with Google Now is Siri for Android users, but with the iOS update is now available to those Apple users who have been lacking a virtual personal assistant. The voice activation is easy to access within the app and, during TG’s time with the service, easily recognized everything spoken to it with complete accuracy. Searches filter through Google Chrome and come up quickly with relevant results.
This is a no-brainer for users who don’t have Siri. However, users who do have Siri may still find Google’s service to be a welcome change. It may take a few additional taps to get to Google Now, but the service easily allows users to search for images, news, places and even get quick directions through Google Maps (not Apple Maps!).
This is pretty self-explanatory, but the app is free in the Apple App Store and many users likely already have the Google Search app, so Google Now capabilities are just an upgrade away. Apps are also easily deleted, so there is no reason not to give Google Now a try, especially for users who employ Google services on a desktop and have a host of Google apps already on their devices.