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Google Now's new Reminders are easy and powerful, but not quite perfect

Brad Chacos | May 17, 2013
Larry Page and his merry Google crew bill Google Now, the scarily omniscient digital assistant baked into the Search apps for iOS and Android Jelly Bean, as a predictive search engine. Google Now notifies you of information you need, when you need it, without you ever needing to actively search for it. It's essentially your laissez-faire brain in the cloud.

Larry Page and his merry Google crew bill Google Now, the scarily omniscient digital assistant baked into the Search apps for iOS and Android Jelly Bean, as a predictive search engine. Google Now notifies you of information you need, when you need it, without you ever needing to actively search for it. It's essentially your laissez-faire brain in the cloud.

That's no longer completely the case after Wednesday's update, which got a high-profile unveiling at Google I/O.

While the majority of Google Now's handy-dandiness is still rooted in the way it sifts through the Googletron's vast knowledge database to send you personalized, location-aware tidbits, its newly added Reminder functionality adds a tinge of self-determination to the information the app spits at you.

After spending the better part of the morning playing with Google Now's latest feature, it's safe to say that Reminders are highly awesome, hiddenly powerful, and much-welcomed addition to an app that's already an incredibly killer feature for Android.

But can Google Now's Reminders compare to their iOS counterpart? We'll get to that shortly.

Reminder basics
Setting a Reminder couldn't be easier. Just open Google Now, utter "Google" to kick in the voice recognition function, and say "Remind me to..." followed by the reminder you'd like to set. (You can also type out the Reminder if you feel weird squawking at your tablet in public.)

Google Now supports date, time, and location-based Reminders. For example, saying "Remind me to call Jennifer at 10 a.m." created a "Call Jennifer" Reminder for 10 a.m. this morning, while "Remind me to call Jennifer at 10 a.m. on June 3rd" created a Reminder for that day. The app is smart enough to understand natural language, too. Asking it to remind me to call Jennifer next Friday created a Reminder for Friday, May 24. (I'm writing this on Thursday, May 16.)

Time-based Reminders pop up in the Google Now interface shortly before the clock strikes the designated hour. At 1:15 p.m. for example, a Reminder to call Jennifer at 1:25 p.m. was visible, but a Reminder to call her at midnight was not. The app also sends you a notification for the Reminder when the proper time strikes.

Location-based Reminders
That alone would make Reminders a strong addition to Google Now, but it's the location-based Reminders that hint at the most intriguing potential. In a nutshell: It's possible to ask Google Now to send you a Reminder when you visit a particular geographic area.

Any landmark identified by Google Maps seems to be fair game--the app identified the Nashua Public Library by my house without a hitch, for example--or you can manually enter an address for a Reminder. The functionality works like a charm, too. When I wandered near the library, a notification for the Reminder appeared. (On a device with a GPS radio, obviously.)

 

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