Google Now for iOS: The stuff you need to know when you need to know it [Review]

Google Now has finally found its way to iOS devices after months of speculation. This new addition of the Google Search app periodically brings up “cards” showing anything from traffic information, weather, sports results and flight schedules based on your location. Say, for example, you arrive at a train station. Google Now will automatically bring up a card showing the train timetable. When you leave for work, the traffic card will come up, showing the expected travel time and will also re-route you if there’s heavy traffic on your usual commute. The ability to get this kind of information is nothing new, but the beauty of Google Now is that it can tell which information will be useful and when. This is what makes it such an intriguing and handy service to have. It’s one thing to have heaps of information in the palm of your hand, but it’s a completely different thing to have it sorted and presented to you for when you actually need it.

“It’s one thing to have heaps of information in the palm of your hand, but it’s a completely different thing to have it sorted and presented to you for when you actually need it.”

When you open the updated Google Search app for the first time, Google Now makes you forget what you were about to google with a splash screen showcasing all the wonderful things it can do. Once you set the service up, the top of a couple of cards pop up at the bottom of the screen. Swiping up gets you into Google Now which itself has a wonderful and easy to use interface. At this stage, not many cards will appear and it takes a while before you start seeing new ones because Google needs to collect a heap of data from you, from google searches to where you go during the day. Apart from the obvious privacy concerns that may be raised, the constant use of Location Services on your iOS device (even when the app is force-quitted) depletes your battery in world-record time. Thankfully, you can use the Feedback tool found in the app’s settings to voice your concerns to Google. Google will definitely need to work on that in upcoming updates, given that the service doesn’t appear to affect the battery performance of Android-powered phones.

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With the nature of how Google Now works, you could be forgiven for believing that this is a precursor to Google Glass, Google’s augumented-reality glasses that streams information that you need right above your line of sight.

Even though it is an excellent product to use, provided that you have an infinite power source and you’re not worried about how Google will use your data, it’s easy to start wondering if and how Apple could make an equivalent service. Although in the past, information-based services have never been Apple’s strong point, Apple Maps for example. As much as I’d like to see Google Now be better integrated with iOS, it seems unlikely since Apple have shown that they want to distance themselves from Google through the creation of their own maps service.

“With the nature of how Google Now works, you could be forgiven for believing that this is a precursor to Google Glass.”

In conclusion, Google Now has the real potential of becoming your companion of your everyday life by giving you the information you need when you need it. However its practicality is held back on iOS devices because of the inefficient way that it collects data about you in order to do its job. I look forward to Google improving the service and making it optimized for iOS devices so it can do its thing without being a burden on its resources.

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