The question “What is Google Now?” is one I’ve been asked a few times recently. I’ve also been asked if it is something that should be worried about or embraced. Google is (in)famous for incorporating changes and technologies without telling people, and these haven’t always been good things. Google Now seems to be a pretty cool thing, though.
Google Now Is an App
Google Now is an app that’s available for both Android and iOS operating systems for mobile devices. That’s right — I said it’s available for iOS devices, so if you feel it’s something that can help you or that you’d like to try out on your iPad or iPhone, you can.
For users of most newer (basically, those made in the last year or so) Android devices, it’s built into the operating system. For those using older Android devices, it gets installed automatically when you update your device. The bells-and-whistles portion on Android devices is accessed by clicking on the Goggle Search icon.
But Apple’s Mobile Platform Already Has Siri!
True. However, chances are, if you give Google Now a shot on your iPhone or iPad, you’ll find that it works better than Siri does and presents you with information that is more relevant to what you’re looking for.
Google Now Helps You Find the Information You Need Quickly
This is one of the few times that Google has actually done a pretty good job of letting their user community know about an upgrade or new feature. However, they haven’t really told us the name of what they were telling us about. You may recall the commercial with the little girl telling her mom that she needs to dress up as Martin Van Buren.
There’s also the Nexus 7 commercial with the boy worrying about a speech he has to give in class. Both of these commercials highlight the fact that Google Now is an incredibly easy to use search application. For you iPhone users, Google Now is an advanced Siri.
What Is Google Now? It’s a Voice-Activated Search Utility
As I write this, I flash back to a great scene from the Star Trek movie series with the original cast where James Doohan (Chief Engineer Scotty) sits down in front of a 20th-century computer terminal and asks the computer to display the chemical formula for transparent aluminum and nothing happens. Scotty could have used Google Now in that scene, but Google was still a few decades away from being founded, so he had to actually type his search queries in.
All you need to do to perform a quick and easy search is launch the application and say “Google.” This alerts the app that you have a question for it (see image above). You then just speak your question. Goggle then queries the Google servers and returns a list of results, just like if you’d opened your web browser and manually entered your search query at the Google site. No muss, no fuss. Just speak and the app does the rest (see image below).
Google Now Presents Information in a Card Format
Your search results, and other types of information that you have Google Now present you with, is delivered in small blocks that Google calls cards. You can set up cards for your local weather, your favorite NASCAR driver or general NASCAR information — basically anything. Almost any type of information set that you can think up can be configured as an information card in Google Now. Sometimes the information presented is hot-linked, while other types of information won’t be — it just depends on the type of information on the card.
Google Now Is Constantly Working In the Background
When you configure Google Now cards to deliver information, the app gathers all the pertinent information in the background, so the information you need is available when you need it. To be honest, this does put more of a load on your device’s battery, but you’re already doing that with the clock and weather widgets you use, just to name a few.
If your battery life is adversely affected too much, you can always disable that feature, but it will slow down your information gathering.
Google Now Builds a Profile Based Upon Voice-Search Patterns
Every time you use the Voice Search function pictures in the screenshots above, you give the program information to help it build a profile on you so, that it can more easily and rapidly deliver the information you need. This means that when you first start using it, the information it provides you with will be pretty sparse, but over time the amount of information it presents will grow.
Google Now Uses Location Services
This is the part of the app that many might not like. In order for the app to present you with location-specific information, such as the time and weather where you are, it has to have access to Location Services. This is a privacy thing, so if you want the information specific to your location, you have to enable Location Services:
- Go to Android Privacy Settings
- Enable Location and Google Search
- Show Recent Searches
One of the cool things about the app is that if you configure two locations — such as work and home — it can present you with extra information like traffic reports. You can do this by tapping the Magic Wand icon within the app, tapping Places, and entering the correct addresses for Work and Home.
Google Now seems like a pretty cool way to stay up on the information you need. I’ll try to keep you informed of my experiences with it over time.