Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Hands on: Google Now is less of a concierge, more of a valet

Dan Moren | April 30, 2013
A profound transition is taking place in our interactions with technology. If the last ten years were about getting all the information you need at your fingertips, the next ten are about making sure that you have the information that's useful to you right now. Google Now is the search giant's attempt to figure out what data you need, and deliver it when you need it--and it's now available to iPhone and iPad users.

A profound transition is taking place in our interactions with technology. If the last ten years were about getting all the information you need at your fingertips, the next ten are about making sure that you have the information that's useful to you right now. Google Now is the search giant's attempt to figure out what data you need, and deliver it when you need it--and it's now available to iPhone and iPad users.

Though it's been available for a while as a built-in feature of Android, Google Now arrives on iOS as part of the Google Search app. It's also not a stretch to say that the app's experience has been largely subsumed by the addition of Google Now; when you launch Google Search after the most recent update, you're greeted by a video explaining what Google Now is, and encouraged to enable the feature.

Unsurprisingly, much of Google Now's utility is based on integration with your Google account, so you'll need to log in if you want to take advantage of the new features. Once you do so, you'll get walked through a tutorial, explaining the features of Google Now and how to use its card-based interface.

Google Now is accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the Google Search app--you'll see the tops of cards just peeking out there.

Each card is a widget in and of itself, offering everything from weather to sports scores to traffic information about your commute. None of that is particularly novel: OS X's Dashboard and Siri already offer that kind of information; what makes Google Now compelling is that it tries to intelligently figure out what information you want when. For example, knowing where you work, it can provide you information on your commute in the morning, or on your way home in the afternoon; when your favorite sports team starts playing, it can pop up a score screen; and when you travel in a foreign country, it can offer you local conversion rates and language translation.

Google Now uses a variety of data to figure out what information is most pertinent at any time. Most obviously, it can use your current location to show you information about nearby places (including restaurants, bars, and movie theaters), other information--flight times, package tracking, events, etc.--can gleaned from your Gmail inbox, if you allow Google Now access to it.

If you enable the Web history feature, Google Now can also pull information from your Google searches, even if those searches aren't done on the same device. I ran a search on my Mac for the traffic between my house and another location, and the next time I opened Google Now, a card told me the current traffic conditions and how long it would take to get there.

 

1  2  Next Page 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.