Google Now is a smart personal assistant that learns what you’re interested in based on what you search for, but until today it was only available for Android. Now iOS users can enjoy the perks of the free service too. The free service offers up personalized info based on what you search for as well as enhanced Voice Search, so you don’t even have to type anything. Is the Apple version of Google Now just as good as the Android version, or does it still need some work? We went hands-on to find out.
Google Now has the capability to pull up your boarding pass, give an approximation of how far you’ve walked or cycled in the last month, check traffic based on your appointment times, show the current weather and show your favorite sports team’s stats. It also gives real-time flight statuses and transportation updates, reminds you when to leave for your dinner reservations or about events you have tickets for and even tells you when your package has shipped. Syncing with your calendar and location services, Google Now is designed to be a smart personal assistant.
To get Google Now, download the free Google Search app. By default it turns on Google Now, but you can double check in Settings to make sure it’s on. By tapping Google Now you can see what Cards, such as Weather, Traffic and Next Appointment, are turned on. Leave all of them on for the maximum amount of cards or adjust each Card based on how often you want to see that Card as well as other details.
We got started by searching for terms we search for often, such as “weather” and “Baltimore Ravens.” By scrolling down, we could see Cards that Google Now already pulled for us. This included the current weather in New York City, a shipping confirmation of a package we ordered (as well as the ability to track that package and view the original email) and information like Zagat reviews and directions of restaurants nearby. If a particular card isn’t helpful or it’s just cluttering up your Now interface, simply swipe to the right and it’ll disappear. We compared Android and iOS Google Now interfaces side by side, and the layout and functionality was identical.
The idea of the app is that the more you use it, the more personalized the Cards become, and they pop up just when you need them. For example, if you have a meeting in an hour and it takes you 45 minutes to get there, Google Now should send you a reminder so you won’t be late. Or, once you use the app for a few days, it should be able to figure out your office location and give you real-time traffic updates so you’re not late.
When we added a lunch meeting to our Google Calendar, we scrolled through our Cards and, sure enough, a new Card was created for that meeting to remind us. However, we had to tap the refresh button to view that Card; Google Now didn’t automatically update in our experience. By tapping on Show Details, we were taken to our Google Calendar, where we could edit details or see what else was on our agenda for that day.
A couple of particularly useful features are Google Now’s Translate Card and the Time At Home Card. If you’re traveling in a foreign country and you want to quickly be able to search terms or phrases, the Translate Card does that, and the Time At Home Card tells you what time it is at home if you’re traveling in a different time zone.
When we tested out Voice Search, we asked “What’s the current weather in New York?” It accurately transcribed our question, then told us “It’s 54 degrees and overcast in New York” as well as provided us with a Card of the current weather. This entire process took less than a few seconds; we appreciated the immediacy.
After a few days, we could definitely see Google Now become invaluable on our iOS device. After using the app for only a short period of time, we already appreciated the personalized results, accuracy and speed. We can only imagine how much easier it could make our life after a few days of use when it gets even more personalized. Step aside, Siri.