Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tech Column: Google Now Is Here for iPhone

by Bill Adler

Android users have been having all the fun, but yesterday Google Now arrived on the iPhone and iPad.

Google Now displays all the important information about your day that you need to know: including the weather and appointments; where packages are that you've ordered and whether your favorite team won the game; directions to your next destination and whether you can expect delays. Google Now not only shows you information that's important to you, but tries to anticipate what you want to know. Google Now will tell you that your flight's been delayed, for example, without your having to ask.

It's clever, and for the most part, it works well. Google does this by tying in all the Google services you use, such as Gmail and Calendar. All that privacy stuff you are worried about Google "knowing" gets connected together in a way that's useful to you. Instead of having to ask how to get to BWI airport, Google Now already has that information for you. Instead of needing to know the current exchange rate between Canadian and US dollars, Google Now tells you because it's aware that you're in Canada. Google Now will let you know if there's a nearby photo opportunity when you're traveling.

The information appears in little cards that you can swipe away once you've read them or if you don't need them. Like many things Google, such as labeling certain emails "important" in Gmail, the more you use it, the more useful it becomes to you.

Google Now for iPhone and iPad is a feature of the main Google search app, http://www.google.com/mobile/ios/, and was just updated to include Google Now on April 29. (In the same update, Google significantly increased the speed of its voice search. Give that a whirl, too: Try something like, "How tall is the Washington Monument?" or "What is the weather going to be in New York next week?" and if you're not blown away by how fast the answers come back, then you've been watching too much Star Trek.)

Google Now for iPhone doesn't tell you everything you might want to know, though. Unlike Android, it doesn't display information about movie times, boarding passes, and concerts, but that's likely to come.

Here's a tip for using Google Now on iOS: set your home and work locations in Google Maps to get weather, directions, and other information.

What about Siri, Apple's voice assistant? Interesting that you ask. Here's where Google and Apple diverge philosophically. Siri can peek into your calendar and tell you what's on your plate for the rest of the day. Siri can set a reminder for you. But Siri only exists in the Apple world. You won't find Siri on any Google device, such as an Android phone, or connected directly to any Google service. Google, in contrast, wants to be everywhere. For example, Google's messaging service, Google Talk, is available on iOS, but Apple's messaging service, iMessenger, only happens on Apple products. You get Google's services on iOS, but you can't make use of Siri within any Google product or device. I think that limits Siri's usefulness. If Apple continues with its walled garden philosophy, in the long run, Google, because it's able to be everywhere, is going to be more useful than Siri.

If you haven't installed Google's search app on your iPhone or iPad, http://www.google.com/mobile/ios/, by all means, today's the day. And if you haven't used Google Now (or Google' voice search), try them.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

No comments:

Post a Comment