Google Now makes debut on iOS
On Monday, Google Search was made available to iPad and iPhone users through the Apple App Store.
Google Search is voice enabled and comes with Google Now, a technology that will learn your search habits, track your appointments on your Google Calendar and flash information at you that is relevant. The cards are supposed to appear when they are relevant to you and the feature has proven pretty accurate so far — it’s been on my iPhone 4S for less than a day and has already reminded me of an appointment and has showed me some Major League Baseball Scores.
What’s been grabbing headlines all over the Internet today, however, is the voice enabled feature of the Google Search app. Is it a good alternative to Apple’s Siri app that first appeared on the iPhone 4S and has been misunderstanding users since? Not really, but that has more to do with the fact this is playing nice with iOS rather than being an integral part of the operating system like it is on Android.
While the voice feature is very accurate when it comes to searching the Internet for various things, it can’t do the stuff Siri is designed to do. You can’t set reminders with it, set appointments, voice text, ask it to directions to locations, voice dial people on your contact list and etc. The difference between the app and Siri is quite simple –Siri is “hardwired” into iOS and has access to contact information, your Apple calendar, Apple Maps and other things from which it draws information. Google Search does not have that access and, as such, is pretty much limited to searching for things.
That does not mean the Google Search app is pointless. To the contrary, it whips the tar out of Siri when it comes to searching — Google is set up to search immediately, whereas the user asks Siri a question and has to affirmatively ask the app to search the Internet when Siri doesn’t know the answer. Also, I’ve found myself having to repeat myself less when it comes to Google Search — the speech recognition is simply better that what Apple’s come up with so far.
The real value to Google Search, at this point, has to do with its bundling of Google Apps in one, convenient place. If you prefer Google’s Calendar to the stock one on the Apple, the app makes it a snap to access it and will show you cards when appointments draw near. Similarly, Gmail, Google News and Google Maps are all housed in the application. If you haven’t dropped Apple’s Maps yet, now’s as good a time as any to substitute the Google product and find out for yourself if the accuracy is better. Of course, you get turn-by-turn navigation through Google’s Maps application and that all works pretty well.
Again, the access to Google’s apps will only be appreciated if you prefer them to Apple’s equivalents. While I prefer Google’s Maps, use Gmail and like the Calendar better, some people might not. For those who prefer the stock Apple stuff, the availability of Google Apps won’t mean quite as much.
One major drawback to Google Search is that the app doesn’t have access to the iOS notifications system. While Siri has the access to remind you of events, the Now component of Google Search can’t do that — sure, it’ll let you know the score of the Pittsburgh Pirates game and let you know of the latest news on subjects you like, but you’ve got to open the app for those notifications.
All in all, Google Search is quite useful. The Now component is eerily accurate in finding information that is useful and presenting it to you when you have the app open and it only gets better the more you use it. However, it is at a disadvantage because it’s not part of iOS like Siri is. Giving this app direct access to the notifications system would make it tremendous, but will that ever happen? Google Now is simply awesome on an Android platform, but it’s merely very good on iOS. Head on over to the Apple App Store to download Google Search for free and test it out for yourself.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.