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Google Now on your iPhone and iPad (googleblog.blogspot.com)
329 points by nreece 1546 days ago | hide | past | web | 223 comments | favorite

My favorite feature of Google Now is that when I've searched for a place/address in Chrome on a PC, it automatically pops up with proposed navigation in a card on my phone. That has saved me so many times from the "dammit, I can't remember the street number" while moving from house to car.

p.s. This is one widget where allowing it to use the maximum space possible makes a lot of sense, especially when traveling internationally (traffic, places, weather, currency, timezone, social/birthdays, calendar events, "things nearby".

The problem with this is their false matches. For example I looked up cffi (C foreign function interface) library. They decided to add a stock ticker of the same letters despite me never clicking on any stock links.

Any lookups of other things give the same results, such as looking up news stories (eg a plane crash starts tracking flights of the same number) or how many calories there are in a McDonalds burger (starts showing nearest locations). I don't remember the example now but I've had it decide other searches are really for sports teams. (Annoyingly they also don't consider Formula 1 a sport.)

The biggest problem is the functionality is non-deterministic. You can't be sure if a card will appear for flights (eg you look one up you expect to meet tomorrow), and you get unintended junk at other times.

The reason is that Google are taking a superficial approach, almost just doing string matching. They aren't going deeper and figuring out more context (eg did I mean a stock, which day do I care about for a flight, is there any chance I'm looking for a McDonalds versus looking at corporate financials).

Perhaps they're taking a lean approach. Before they build the clever stuff, they may want to see if people will use it even with the dumb string matching.

> You can't be sure if a card will appear for flights

In my experience, Google Now finds my flights in my Gmail 100% of the time. For at least a dozen flights across the US. And for some airports (SFO is one, unsurprisingly) it even has the terminal and gate information ready! Google Now makes the "arriving at the airport" experience better every time for me.

I had some friends arriving at SFO from Dubai a few weeks later, but had no way of telling if Now would show the right flight on the right day since there is no card about future flights. Similar story for the cross country flight they took a few days later.

In order for me to depend on Now, I need to know I can trust it and it only got one of the flights right. There is no way to know if it will do the right thing in the future unless you keep checking and having a backup plan.

That's because it's Google Now, not Google Planner. It's for giving you information relevant to right now. You don't plan to use Google Now for something, you check it when you want information relevant to you at the moment. If you stop trying to make Google Now into a personal organizer, you'll enjoy using it more.

> It's for giving you information relevant to right now

More accurately it is giving you a random subset of information that might be relevant right now. The behaviour is not deterministic so you can't rely on it.

Random is incorrect.

I was operating under the (apparently mistaken) impression that the only automated processing of email contents done by teh Google was for targeted advertising purposes.

It's sort of scary to think that they're now going to parse out and generate non-email records of potentially confidential information such as your physical location at a point in time (like a flight number + date).

I steal private data for a living and that's just fucking creepy.

I agree, but it's worth noting that you can go to Navigation and recent searches on your PC should appear in the dropdown list of places to choose from, so it's not Now-specific.

What device are you using? I just checked on my phone and I didn't see a tab for recent searches available.

What I found though were starred places. I like the ability to be able to see my search history. How can you get to that from the navigation app ?

I am using 4.2.2. Click the navigation icon at the bottom and the direction page shows up and then the recent search history menu automatically popup underneath the end point input. If you doesn't, you can click the start point and then click the end point again, it might take a bit depending on your connection speed.

Nexus 4 running a CM 10.1 nightly. If you open Maps, click the "Directions" button (not nav, sorry), then it'll ask you what you want directions to, and your recent searches will be there.

They also pop up for me when I tap to put a cursor in the search box at the top of the map app.

This card was my idea back when I worked on Google Now. I'm still proud of it.

It's really a wonderful thing. I haven't yet figured out the specific magic combination of things that will guarantee it popping up on the phone though - sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. I really love Now but it needs to be omnipresent.

Eh, I find it kind of annoying, a notification for every restaurant, city, country, etc that I look up and have absolutely zero intention of traveling to. It has potential to be useful, but it needs to get smarter first.

Maybe I spend too much time searching Maps randomly.

Probably. It would have to make a lot of assumptions to infer your intention when searching, at least in Maps, etc. current form.

A browser plugin to enable/disable Now tracking seems like it could be handy, however. Though then if you forget to turn it back on you lose what eitally mentioned: "I forgot X, oh, thankfully Now caught it".

But doesn't Google Maps have a history feature that syncs across devices? Now seems like it might be polluting that space.

> A browser plugin to enable/disable Now tracking seems like it could be handy, however.

I've gotten into the habit of using incognito mode for most searches, and only staying logged in for things I think I'll want Now-based information for, like directions or information cards.

I've been using the Google map's star feature for this type of address transferring - star a location on PC and it will show up on your phone in seconds, you just need to unstar it later if it's not an address you want your map to remember.

I don't even need to star anything. If I type an address into maps.google.com on my PC, as long as I'm signed into Google it will be in my Maps app search history.

It would have a lot lot better feature if Android could manage battery usage for things like GPS in a low power mode[1] even if it was on all the time and would only activate in the background intermittently or AGPS fetches some region of interest. Though for this to work efficiently AGPS shall have to be more accurate than it is as of now - at least available on Android phones.

[1]Sth like Bluetooth Low Energy (it requires additional h/w though)

Have you heard of or taken a look at Gimbal SDK? http://www.gimbal.com - it consumes about 3% battery for always on GPS/location...

Funny, if Apple trawled through your email, calendar and search history to pull a stunt like this people would be up in arms.

Guess whether a walled garden is a bad thing depends on your particular brand of fanboyishness.

Personally speaking, the idea of Google displaying things based on my email history, diary and a knowledge of my location makes me shudder, "You're near that motel where you had that quickie last month, want to make a reservation?".

People are "up in arms" about Google's email reading _constantly_. Microsoft is producing brand new ads about it as we type. Maybe it's just hard to care after this long? Google has been traipsing through my email for a decade now and all that's ever come of it has been my personal convenience.

Yeah, even the comment you are responding to is complaining about Google's email reading.

Of course it would, because they'd be trawling through data I haven't given them. People have given Google their email, calendar and search history by using their services. We already know they have all of our data. Is it a little scary? Sure. But you can remedy that by choosing not to give all your data to one company. You just forgo, what could be, cool features like Now by doing so.

Funny, if Apple trawled through your email, calendar and search history to pull a stunt like this people would be up in arms.

Would they? Is there any precedent here of Apple scraping user info? The usual complaints against Apple (mine included) is that their systems are far too locked down and closed to competition- not that they do funny stuff with my data.

Remember the hubbub two years ago when Apple was collecting GPS data?


The hubbub was due to some bugs in iOS location services and wasn't ever directly accessed by Apple or shared with 3rd parties.


All smartphone providers track the same sort of data in roughly the same way, it's part of what makes location software work.

IIRC they did that without informing or asking their users for permission. Contrast that with android which is opt-in.

The problem here is the long-term tendency is to turn opt-in into "if you don't opt in you don't get any of our services".

Kinda like HIPPA medical privacy rights in the USA: when you go to a doctor, they'll hand you a paper for you to sign acknowledging you understand your privacy rights...then they hand you another paper for you to sign away those rights; if you don't sign both, you don't get any medical service. Imagine a not-distant future where if you don't opt-in to questionable services from Google, Apple & Microsoft, you're flatly denied use of any of their products - digitally ostracizing yourself from most of society.

Like not getting invited to parties and gatherings if you don't use facebook or not being approached for jobs if you don't use linkedin? We're already there.

Also they didn't collect the information or share it with third parties and well it was a bug. I don't agree with the OP but I think it's unfair to contrast what Apple did with anything that also wasn't a bug. It would sort of be like comparing what Apple did with security vulnerabilities in Android; the user isn't informed, notified and permission isn't asked for on the other hand Google and Apple weren't/aren't doing so purposefully.

It's never been a secret that Google crawls your data, and it's not hard to find people up in arms about it.

And personally, I'm fine with Google doing so when they're actually doing something for my benefit with it (like Now).

Unless something has changed since I first set up google now on my phone, anything that requires trawling through your inbox is entirely opt-in (that is, another layer of opt-in beyond installing the app and enabling google now)

Have you been reading Hacker News?

People complain here all the time about Google getting access to your personal data.

People would be up in arms against Apple? Are you new to HN? Apple is HN's baby.

After listening to friends rave about Now and reading so many positive comments online I really wanted to like it. I've been using it for a few months and my experience is significantly worse than what others have reported. It always seems to show me notifications for the wrong information at the wrong time.

Take directions. I work at a coworking space 4 miles from my home. The hours I'm there vary. Now seems to try predicting when I'm going to leave and shows me directions home. Its timing is never correct and I don't need directions for a route I drive all the time.

I can only remember one instance of it correctly notified me of when to leave (with directions) for something on my calendar. Often it just shows directions without the "Leave Now" message.

Sometimes it notifies me of the weather. Sometimes it doesn't. I haven't figured out that pattern yet.

Overall it just doesn't seem to understand my usage patterns.

> I work at a coworking space 4 miles from my home. The hours I'm there vary.

Followed by:

> Overall it just doesn't seem to understand my usage patterns.

It sounds like that's because there isn't a pattern, at least in the case of your commute. You should just configure it to not try to show you those directions.

You can't. I work from home and Now has decided that I work at the vegetable shop nearest to my house (because I visit there often I guess), and it has assigned it the location name "Work". You cannot delete this location. You can rename it, but that won't stop Now from suggesting that you drive there. If there was a bit more control it would be fantastic.

In Now app, go to Settings | My Stuff | Places | Work. You can edit the address in there.

I think one of the philosophies behind Now is that you don't need to configure it. Through it having access to your calendar, email, and searches, it is supposed to be clever. It'll probably get better in future, but if users have to configure it, then it's currently failing.

"... I don't need directions for a route I drive all the time."

It's not just about directions, it's about traffic as well. When it maps a regular drive for me it also factors in traffic delays.

Yes, but today as I was leaving work it told me there was heavy traffic. There wasn't any way to reroute so I used google maps and this time it told me traffic was light and gave a different commute time. All happened within a minute so it seems unlikely that it was right in the middle of updating traffic conditions. I drove the usual way and the traffic was normal.

So I'm not sure what its up to.

Guessing random working hours are hard for any algorithm. I wouldn't really hold that against google. As well, the directions to common destinations is more about knowing what traffic will be like and if you should take an alternate route. This is much more useful for those that commute farther.

I quit my job and started freelancing from home last year, but there's no way to delete a work address in Google Now (only to change it).

You could maybe change it to be the same as your home address.

Having tried that myself, I discovered your suggestion causes Google Now to go a little cuckoo. It spent a week trying to suggest that I work at our local grocery store because I went there one morning for coffee, milk, and lunch ingredients.

Then when I met up with some associates at a coworking spot, it tried recommending that I drive home to the grocery store. :-?

It does this sort of thing to me all the time. When I'm at home, it thinks I should go "home" to my girlfriend's. When I'm there, it tells me to go to my actual home.


I recommend a real, living, breathing assistant for you then. You can hire one cheap online from India.

...but then I'd have to send them my phone. ;-)

...and then I'd have to have the person in India with my phone turn on mock locations, and then be constantly borrowing someone else's phone. I'd probably have to get another personal assistant here in the U.S. to follow me around so I can borrow their phone and task them with updating where I am to the resource I hire in India.

My experience exactly.

I had plans in G+ to go to the Exploratorium at 2:00 on Saturday. I finished brunch early, so I arrived at 1:30. Google Now interrupted me at 1:45 to remind me to go to the Exploratorium.

Are you really complaining that it can't read your mind?

It sounds like he's complaining that it was telling him to go somewhere he already was.

But being in the same building doesn't mean he was already there. When I'm at work I still want a reminder for a meeting.

He wasn't going to the exploratorium for a meeting. I'm not sure what the solution is, or if there is one, but the point is that it was not useful.

It was in a calendar (this case G+). It's not going to know you don't want a reminder for something because it's not a human and it can't read your mind.

I'd rather have it remind me of things that I don't want to be reminded of than not be reminded of things I do.

The premise of google now is that it can read your mind. It's not my (the consumer) job to be concerned about implementation.

No, it's really not. The premise of G+ is that it predicts what you want to see. There's a massive difference between predicting and knowing.

It was a Google+ event with about 100 people invited. It felt like it was a cached notification that didn't realize I had already arrived.

Are you sure that wasn't just an ordinary calendar reminder?


It doesn't work too well on the first day. Use it for a few days and it will begin to learn your habits.

Not if you continually use public transportation. I go all over the place in NYC, and there doesn't seem to be a way to get the directions to default to public transportation. Having driving directions and traffic wait time when I don't have a car is kind of useless.

Press the i button in the top right hand corner of the card. Select 'Transportation Mode' from the expander. Select from Driving, Public Transport, Walking, Cycling etc.

Excellent, thank you so much for this. "Next train leaving in <x> minutes" is sweet.

I always use public transportation in Boston and configured it to show directions as such the first day I had it last fall. It's probably more useful if you use it this way because there are usually multiple possible routes to take and it gives a very good indication of when to walk out the door.

He stated he used it for few months.

I've been using it even longer, and, aside of few "ok, cool" moments, it is completely unusable piece of software.

Deal breaker for me is - you can't rely on it as a weather app, you can't rely on it as reminder, as currency converter, and so on. Simply put, it's unreliable.

And a bit scary to boot, but I don't mind that, seeing how incompetent it is.

From their comment:

  I've been using it for a few months

Unless you work as Taxi driver, or Messenger.

I fell for Google Now when I booted my old Nexus to test test something, and Google Now had read through my emails and showed me a tracking status for a UPS package I was expecting. I was pretty jealous of that functionality, but never convinced to go back to Android just for one feature. Now, I really have no reason.

It's also pretty telling of something when more iOS devices have Google Now than Android devices do.

I had a similar "whoa" moment a couple of weeks ago.

Google alerted me that I should leave for Santa Barbara "now".

Which was really, really weird for me, since I was already halfway there (from Phoenix).

Apparently, it had read through my emails, seen a receipt for sigur ros tickets from ticketmaster, figured out where I was, and already calculated how long it would take me to get there.

That is insanely awesome.

Or, terrifying. Take your pick :)

How is it awesome that it told you to leave, when in fact you had already left? Shouldn't it have alerted you before you left?

I'd guess he left earlier than he strictly had to to make the specific appointment. The "leave now" is presumably just "if you want to be on-time", not "if you want to be on-time and do some antiquing and grab some lunch first".

But I guess it should know you're on your way if you appear to be moving along the route to the event.

Or to the restaurant around the corner that just happens to be on the same path.

I guess if you look like you're on the way, and it looks like you're going to make it on time then it shouldn't prompt.

If you do get to the restaurant around the corner and stop then it should realise that it may need to remind you.

Anyway, I've signed up for it today. I like the idea in principle, and I understand how hard it is to get this right. I assume it will get better over time as they tweak it, so it's worth giving them a fair crack of the whip.

There's absolutely no way for it to infer that 100%. How many times have people started driving to an event or the grocery store and taken a turn towards home halfway there? I'd rather be reminded at an appropriate time even if it's unnecessary than not be reminded at all.

If she'd forgotten, it would have been an excellent reminder.

I don't know if Google Now is that clever.

If you had an event in a calendar which had something in the "Location"-field it took the location you should be at from there.

Still it is a "whoa" moment. :)

I've had it recognize order confirmations for concert tickets to a show a couple of hours away, parse them, and automatically create a notification with navigation at an appropriate time to leave.

It finds hotel reservations and flight itineraries in your email, and shows cards based off of those as well.

I'm going to assume that it only looks at your gmail? or any email account connect to your phone?

It only integrates with the Gmail app on the device. There are specific cards that will work _only_ if you have the Gmail app pulling in email and it's enabled.

Me too.

I was robbing a bank and Google alerted me that I should leave "now".

Which was really weird for me, since I had a lot of gold to transport.

Apparently, it read through my emails, seen a glitch from other galaxy, figured out portal has opened, and already calculated how long it would take for the aliens to invade the earth.


Of course he knows it. His comment said he was introduced to Google Now on his Nexus. Google Now requires a minimum of Android 4.1.

iOS feels pretty old-fashioned in comparison.

Pretty subjective. I feel it's the other way around, with Android feeling old-fashioned, although I really like Android's power. I use both Android and iOS daily.

As you probably know, Google Now is on Jelly Bean and up (Android 4.1+)

According to Google's own statistics, just 25% of Android devices [that access the Play store] are on Jelly Bean. Almost 70% are on Ice Cream Sandwich or Gingerbread.


Not sure how many iOS devices have the Google Search app installed, but I wouldn't be surprised if the percentage of total iOS devices with Google Now is > 25%...

> It's also pretty telling of something when more iOS devices have Google Now than Android devices do.

It's also pretty telling of something when you can make such blind and broad claims when Android is holding significant lead to iOS across the board.

I have a question for our Android-using brethren who've had the opportunity to play with Now. I've read a bit about it over the past few weeks, and I've been excited about a port to iOS, but now that I have it, I'm not sure how or if it'll fit into my life day-to-day.

At first brush, all I see is a weather widget. I know there's more to it, but where exactly does the magic happen? What have you done (if anything) to maximize its value?

Make sure you have search history turned on in your Google account - that's when the magic happens.

Also, I'm not quite sure how the iOS experience will be compared to Android - on Android, Google Now can proactively push data to users via the ridiculously powerful notifications system, and the intents mechanism lets it hook into the other parts of the phone seamlessly. iOS' notification center is distinctly less advanced, and it obviously has no intents mechanism, so it may feel less "magical" than it does on Android, simply because it'll require more user proactivity to bridge that gap.

Here's a list of all the cards that Google Now might show you: http://support.google.com/nexus/4/answer/2839499?hl=en

Looks like it doesn't even use notifications on iOS. That's a big bummer :(

yeah, by the time I've remembered to open Google Now and slide up the cards I would very likely have realized what I might have forgotten.

For me, it's only showing the local weather, which I can see out my office window. And besides, this is CA. Forecast for the rest of the year is Sunny and warm.

I suspect that using the very simplified iOS notifications would probably get irritating quickly. Sample size of 1 but my iOS notifications tray is always a disaster compared to my Android, I think because it doesn't coalesce notifications the same way so you commonly have 5+ notifications for a single app.

On Android, it often kicks off notifications when things are relevant to your situation. For example, it learns where home & work are (based on where I spend time during day or night). When travel time back home at rush hour is bad, it sends a notification to say I might want to leave earlier.

If you put a location in a Google calendar item, it will keep tabs on traffic and notify you when you should leave for your appointment.

If your search history shows you're searching for a sports team often, it'll have a standing card with that team's scores & schedules.

Google Now is connected to your Gmail and can pop up notifications for shipments, flights, restaurant reservations, etc based on receipts and boarding passes in your inbox.

The "killer features" all come from you using other Google products/services while signed-in to the same account that you use with Google Now.

Search for "pizza" or a specific address on your computer while signed-in to Google Maps? The next time you look at your phone it tells you how long it would take to get there, and offers you turn-by-turn directions, automatically.

Have a flight confirmation email sent to your signed-in Gmail account? You'll be notified on your phone if your flight gets delayed, how long the trip will be, and information about your destination. Same goes for package delivery confirmation emails.

And those really only scratch the surface. The more you use it, the more you come to rely on it, which makes you want to use Google-branded services more and more often. It's a brilliant move on their part.

The magic happens in the best way. The idea is stuff only appears when it's useful and like "magic". For instance, when ever there is a bulls game it shows me who is playing with in the next day and the score when it's over. It'll tell me my time to get home or if I just googled a restaurant then it will tell me how long to get to the restaurant. I love it, but it's very subtle which is even better.

You will see more "magic" happen as you your the app. I don't know the state of app on ios but on Android, Google slowly learns about your home and office locations, it learns about stocks you search for, places you travel to, movies you search for etc. As a result of this,

- In mornings, I get the traffic to office from my home. - In evenings, I see the travel time back. - When I am visiting a different city/country, I get time, currency and weather updates. If the hotel reservation and flight reservation are in gmail, I also get the latest flight updates, the hotel checkin email etc. - I have the stocks card always on. - On fridays, I get updates on movies that are in theaters. - On weekends and on trips, I get photos of nearby places (I click a lot of photos)

- I am not a sports fan but I have heard that the sports integration is decent and useful too.

Finally, - I have not used the ios app so don't know if that has all the functionality as Android. - I don't know if ios can have always-on apps or hardware shortcuts so I don't know if you can get to it with 0-taps and if it will keep the cards up to date in background.

The magic happens when I search for an address in Google Maps on my browser. When I get lost attempting to go to the address in my car, I can just slide down my notifications and Google Now has the address ready to go into navigation. This saves me time/anxiety of typing/getting more lost/voice recognition.

Things I use every day: weather; baseball and football scores for teams I like; approximate time to home and traffic conditions from wherever I am

Things I use when the appropriate email arrives in my inbox: current flight schedules (plus approximate time to get to the airport); package tracking

One thing that totally surprised me: I had a reservation on OpenTable, and my phone buzzed with a notification that it was time to leave for the restaurant if I intended to make it on time

And to be honest, I haven't "done" anything to get this value. This is all information that arrives automatically. That is, Google determined automatically what I needed to know by indexing my email, my searches, and knowing where I am at all times. Make of that what you will.

I don't drive or travel much. But the few times it has been insanely helpful is if you do travel and have no idea about places to visit / see while you are there.

I saw little for a few months. The it started feeding in search based info. Recently if I am out late it suggests places to eat...

It comes when you use GMail and Google Calendar a lot. Having it let me know that I need to jump on Muni to make a date on time is a plus. The most mind blowing was when I went home, told me I needed to leave for the airport because of traffic, pulled up my boarding pass (United), and showed me what gate the flight was and any potential delays.

It used to be an useless time to commute by car to home (and I used to take the train) and the weather thing. Until I went on vacation to Germany and it started popping places to see, German translating widgets and other goodness. Not that useful still, but I believe it can grow into something really useful and quick.

You can change the commute mode from driving to public transportation

I'd imagine that works great in SF. The realtime public transit data Google has access to varies greatly city to city.

As it's been said before, that works just on some locations. For the vast majority of the world (like in, geographically), Google Now is not that accurate or useful.

Set a work and home location so that it knows when you really are out and about. Start using G+ if you don't already (eg I got a birthday alert for someone yesterday, via Now, via G+). Set some data in other google applications (Calendar, Finance, etc). All roads lead to Now. (Well, some do)

Imagine how useful intelligently feeding google reader data into Now would be... oh wait, whoops. Aside from whining about Reader being cancelled I am serious that sniffing relevant RSS feeds would be a highly useful feature to add.

I've had it for a few months on my Nexus 7. In summary its travel and shopping push notifications. I had the usual intense short lived "oh that's really cool" reaction and haven't used it since then and its had no measurable impact on my life. Kinda like my relationship with facebook and linkedin and twitter.

In the eternal wheel of IT, where nothing is ever really invented, merely recycled every couple years, this is the reincarnation of the pointcast internet screensaver app from the mid 90s. Back then the complaint was it was spammy and didn't provide real value, so after a similar intense publicity wave quieted, they dried up and blew away with the wind, until now (literally, "Now", get the pun? Yeah well bad pun; bad puns never really go away just get recycled later...)

I don't think it would be very useful to have RSS feeds in Google Now. I like Google Now because it tells me what I want to know right now, like that my flight is delayed or traffic is bad or here's how to get to that restaurant and you need to leave in 15 minutes. I don't want to know about a new article right now.

Perhaps. But the app has very little to say if you're not traveling or shopping. Personalized news would fit in with the "a push of personalized interesting stuff" model. On the other hand if its sticking to the "travel and shopping" model then I do agree news would be inappropriate.

You have cards for breaking news, and updates on stuff that you've searched Google News about (e.g. for the Boston bombing, I was getting regular updates on the situation. If you don't want to hear about it anymore, you can opt out easily.)


Google Reader = News Feed

Google Now = Life Feed

the magic of google now is that you don't have to do anything. most of the time it just sits there quietly doing nothing, every now and then it informs you of something useful.

it's not like other apps where you have to decide if it's worth it to use google now or not. all you have to do is install it, and it will periodically be useful.

I'm a bit surprised that the iphone version of Google Now beat the Chrome version of Google Now.

In my mind, Google Now is about carving out a space on devices where they can actually show high value contextual advertising outside of search. Their pitch to advertisers will be much stronger if they have a foothold on every device.

I'm also surprised that this was released before Google I/O. Between near confirmation that Android will be 4.3, and the string of major product releases of the last couple of months, it looks like any major announcements will have to come from left field. The Google X people have been dropping hints about some sort of Control Systems thing....

Chrome Dev channel has a new 'New Tab' design that is moving towards something that could easily become google now. It has its own search box and looks a little like the google homepage. If there was going to be "google chrome now" its the place for it.

> I'm also surprised that this was released before Google I/O

I haven't been at the Google I/O but it wouldn't be surprising if they did not want to have anything to do with a competitor mentioned at their conference.

Last year at I/O, one of their big keynote announcements was Chrome for iOS.

I'm not surprised at all. The mobile market is a much more compelling _user scenario_ than desktop, both in terms of the user-need and the user-interface. On mobile, the user-need can be satisfied much better with additional sensor data that aren't common in computers today. The user-interface, too, is why it's a much more compelling mobile offering than a desktop offering (collating all that information in mobile between multiple apps would be annoying, not so much with a multi-tabbed browser or multiple windows)

Besides, Google has been killing it on iOS recently.

They really have been doing very well on iOS recently. So much so, most of the stock Apple apps have been replaced by a Google app. It is really making me think about switching to Android.

Unfortunately the Gmail app for instance is better on iOS than on Android... I'm jealous. Hopefully Mailbox for Android will come soon.

Yeah, I find in general that Google's Android apps are more focused on functionality (regardless of if that makes it a bit in your face), whereas iOS they've focused a lot more on simpler design. I guess it matches the cultures and users of each ecosystem, but it's too bad that the Android apps don't look as pretty as iOS.

"The Google X people have been dropping hints about some sort of Control Systems thing...."

Wasn't there suppose to be an X labs announcement this month? Maybe they're saving it for I/O. There is a ton of potential for Google Now to function as a controller for your home (android) devices. For example, you're going home from work on a hot day and a card pops up asking if you want to turn the A/C on so the house is cool when you get home.

IMO you're assuming that folks would use Google Now on their desktop browser more than their smartphone. I wouldn't assume that. The data collection they'll get as a result of iOS is FAR superior (+ a bit more relevant for the current cards they're offering).

WRT "Google NOW" on the desktop, read the wikipedia article about Pointcast the dotcom. From $450M to $7M in two years, to zero by the third year.

Its basically the same idea.

Pointcast was basically a feed reader / screensaver. It didn't have any of the predictive elements of Now (as I recall... I had it installed back in the day.)

Basically, it turned your idle monitor into a poor-man's version of a TV tuned to MSNBC. One of the major problems was that selling ads on an idle computer screen is a hard sell.

The whole point of Now is that it's _not_ a generic news feed / portal. It's all stuff customized to you, and it's not intended to be just passively viewed.

Mobile devices have much better context information than desktops. And they're more likely to be present during offline spending decisions.

I've used personal assistant like products before. But google now is the only one I keep going back to. Personal context is critical for a working personal assistant - you need to know the whereabout, the calendar, the habit, the preferences about everything. That's the power of Google streamline of products.

Google better not be evil.

> Google better not be evil.

Given their history, that's an awful big statement to make.

Who thinks Google is evil?

I do. They are the proverbial sheep in wolves clothing IMHO. It's why I choose not to use their products. Unlike many though, I have no issue with anyone else using their products. Google Now seem like a cool product, but for me the cost is far too high.

Google is a business. They can remain non-evil as long as their balance sheet holds up. Downside could be massive.

Don’t worry, your personal information is safe with Google. It’s a company that makes all of its profits from selling advertising, surely that has nothing to do with you.

Well, I hate to admit it, because I am an ex-iOS user that ran away from it because of the closed ecosystem, but seeing that it keeps aggregating the absolute best applications, even from Google, and with the goodness everyone feels is coming from the Ive-influenced iOS 7, I might have to fall back into the walled garden.

Apple is really good at this stuff.

Not sure what you mean by "absolute best applications" since the app on ios is fundamentally limited by the APIs that are provided by the OS. I agree that ios has some of the better apps but I don't think presence of Google Now on ios is better then that on Android.

As someone who has used all three major platforms extensively, I think I could shed some light on this.

iOS has the "absolute best apps" because of the level of polish, design, and near-pixel-perfect elements visible in the apps. I've used Android for years (SGS2 and Nexus 7) and many of the apps are poorly designed and have even poorer implementations. Many of them feel like they are just 5 standard UI widgets put together on the screen is just bland. This can be seen by how many Android applications use Holo but don't try to give it their own personality. Small changes to the UI can lead to a personalized and tailored/polished feel (Starbuck's green standard navbar, Netflix's logo on their own red navbar, etc). Also, iOS apps seem to experiment more with gestures and UX concepts. Using apps like Clear, Google Maps, Haze, etc. really shows you how well thought out an app could be. It just seems like many of Android's apps look the exact same and lack that attention to detail, I guess.

Also, please remember that "more powerful" doesn't correlate to "best." I would rate Clear much, much higher than most Android apps. While it doesn't allows me to access the root filesystem, overclock the CPU, or alter the boot image, it's extremely intuitive, attractive, and works beautifully.

What you describe is precisely the sort of thing I dislike in mobile apps. On a (non-Windows) desktop, no one would dare do such crazy, confusing things.

These "crazy, confusing things" these mobile app devs are trying are expanding the way we use applications. Making apps gesture-based has lead Google Maps (for iOS), Clear, and even Facebook (swipe down closes image) to have much more intuitive UIs. I'm much happier that developers are experimenting with improved UX experiences rather than just trusting the designs Google or Apple decided on.

Gestures are of debatable utility of course, I often find some of them useful. There are only two problems: 1) not discoverable and 2) overlap with system gestures. The latter is particularly annoying when websites do it.

The part I have a problem with is the wildly different-looking and different-functioning buttons, lists, menus and so on. If they had exercised some restraint and only applied a minimal colour-only theme, I could figure out what their UI does after just looking at it.

If your definition of a great app is one that has unfettered access to your OS, uh... well, good for you, I guess.

Enjoy your MIDI-playing personal USB fan on your Android phone--I'll just be over here getting actual work done.

What makes you think Android apps have unfettered access to the OS? Android's sandbox and permission system is pretty sophisticated and whenever you want install an app you can see exactly what it's allowed to do and then decide whether you actually want to install it.

Are you saying you can't get work done unless some third party makes those decisions for you?

I honestly did not expect to see Google Now on iDevices. For me it is definitely the "killer app" on my Android phone.

I used to think that but lately I've been considering switching to Android. Google Now is one of the reasons. Giving me the opportunity to really try it might make be switch now. I think it's because Google Now isn't the kind of feature you can just test in the shop and make a decision on. It requires actual use to know if you like it.

I had the opportunity to use it for a few weeks at work, when developing and Android app, and made the jump from the iPhone to a Nexus 4. Google Now is incredible. Last week I went to another city for a family funeral and the next day it was showing traffic to the place I slept, sights to see, etc. This weekend I was walking around town and a card showed up with movie times. It's little things that wow you and actually turn out to be useful.

The Android experience is very good now, but I would be lying if I said that app quality is nearly as high, especially in things like photography and audio. That still makes me think about whether my commitment is long-term.

I was surprised at first, but as I thought about it more, it makes sense. Google wants to have you using Google's services. Whether that's on iOS or Android, they probably could not care less. The larger the audience, the more their services get used.

Dammit Google, this is awesome, and genius, and pretty much obsoletes Siri, but why didn't you push this in the Android Google search app? I really want Now on my phone since it's awesome on my tablet, but I can't get Jellybean onto it.

I don't have Siri on my iphone (a 4), but I always thought the benefit was from composing text messages and such...

This is just search isn't it?

I believe on an Android phone it integrates all Google voice actions (I may be being unfair to say it obsoletes Siri for iOS as some actions may be unavailable for iOS), which include texting/calling etc. It's not just for searching though, no. It basically acts like Siri, in that it gathers cards of information, but it does that without you asking using a wealth of data Google hold.

Right, but in the context here, on iOS, it's just search as far as I can tell.

It isn't just search it is also calender reminders, location based recommendations. It really tries to be a personal assistant the way siri does.

No, it used to be just search. Now it's a whole integrated service of helpful information on a local/personalized basis (RTFA).

Hmm. I only use Siri to play music by name.

I transited through Melbourne airport last weekend coming home from a holiday. Checked my phone and Google Now told me the projected travel time to the hotel I always stay in when I'm there for work.

(Judging by the other comments here, maybe I should complain about that - it should have known I was on holidays. But I'm not jaded enough and so I was just dazzelled by the wonder of it).

Glad to see this coming to iOS, the more users, the more feedback Google will get on how to improve the service for everyone.

Hope Apple can try their hand at creating some cross platform applications as well.

Hope Apple can try their hand at creating some cross platform applications as well.

iTunes? QuickTime?

Never on Linux, not on Android, nor has Apple shown any indication of supporting Windows RT. If anything, Apple's abandonment of Safari for Windows indicates that they can't wait to support their platform solely. Even their retail store app, which is used to sell hardware products as little downside of being cross-platform, is iOS only. That's just cutting off your nose to spite your face behavior we've come to expect from Apple.

Where's Internet Explorer and Office 2013 for OS X? Which significant Microsoft apps run on iOS?

Obviously it makes sense for Google to get its advertising hooks everywhere it can, but I don't see Apple and Microsoft having the same cross-platform incentives at all.

With google forking webkit, it will be good to have safari back on windows. I could not understand their decision to quit safari development on windows. Integrate and share data between a good safari desktop browser on windows and an iDevice would be nice.

They had Safari for Windows and dropped it. And iTunes and Quicktime both run considerably worse in Windows compared to OSX (besides looking out of place).

I think that's the entire list.

As a new Android convert I've found Google Now to be awesome. Sure, it's not entirely accurate or intuitive, but it definitely helps and is somewhat good at knowing what information I want to see (it seems to be getting better with each day that passes). Based on the comments people expect Google Now to be a mind reading service, but it's merely a companion that tries showing you the information you want without having to ask for it. Google Now coupled with Google Glass will no doubt be an awesome combination though. Good to see it finally hit iOS devices, for those who aren't too picky you'll find it a fun and helpful app to have.

It's kind of wild that Google knows that the only American sports team I follow is Miami Heat. First time launch of Google Now for iOS was the weather and their score yesterday. Amazing first user impression.

Downloading the new Google Search app for my iPhone re-activated "Location History" for my account and tracked me all day until it sent me an email (privacy notice) about how my location history was on.

What the fuck, Google.

If I have to launch the app is it really Google Now? Or do I not need to launch the app?

Not really Google's fault there. Ask Apple to allow background processes from more apps, and wait until that arrives, or start using an Android phone if you want to benefit from the "full" Google Now experience.

On Android, it's accessed much the same way as Siri and so is truly "Google Now" on that platform. On iOS, you made have to launch an app but I don't think it would make sense to change the name to "Google Very Fast" or similar. Perhaps the name also refers to the speed of getting information when you're already in the app.

I'm trying to figure out. I'm assuming it has to use Notifications?

update: does not use notifications :(

How does it work on Android? Does it use notifications there?

It uses a bunch of different kinds of interaction:

- A normal home screen widget

- A lock screen widget

- A special "drag up from the home button" gesture that can be triggered from any app

- Rich notifications. (As in you can trigger useful actions straight from the notification. E.g. for an event that's starting soon, you can email all participants.)

Yes, it puts some cards in the notification center on Android.

However, Android push is significantly more flexible than iOS push, if you push information to an iOS app, that information must appear as a notification, and the app can't process it until the user opens the notification.

Yes, but Android doesn't also have strict limitations of what an app can do in the background.

Yes. When something Google Now finds relevant is available it creates a low priority notification that the user will see when checking the notification pane.

Let's talk about privacy: Does it exist? Is this something to worry about?

It sure does! Google can only scan your email, calendar, etc. if you let them. Use outlook.com or Fastmail or iCloud or another alternative if you don't like the agreement Google requires.

Of course if you don't give Google this information, you might as well not opt-in to Google Now.

Again I run into the issue that Google doesn't seem to release their iPhone apps internationally. I'm in Europe (Iceland, specifically) and I can't download the Google Search or Google Authenticator apps because they're not available in our App Store.

Does this happen to people in any other European countries?

It is available in France, but yet again France is one of the "bigger" markets.

Couldn't you get access to the UK's or Ireland's store? All you need is a voucher card and a fresh email address. That's how I got my US account for US-exclusive apps.

I'm not in Europe but they (+ Google Maps) are not available in our App Store.

Can I have Google Now on Android 4.0.4 please?

What do you guys do about multiple accounts? I have my email on a Google Apps for Business account since it's set up on a custom domain, but I have my legacy gmail account for everything else (Search, Maps, YouTube, Google+, Play, Checkout, the list goes on). Since there's no way to merge accounts, and Now can only use a single account, I can either have it only get data from my mail, or get data from everywhere BUT my mail.

And it uses location service ALL the time, even when the app is not running, ensuring I never use the feature.

Has anybody else tried it on iPhone? Mine only shows a wether card, and a map card showing me the way home now; nothing more. I even tried creating event in my calendar (both Google and iOS calendars) but no card is added. Is there a significant sync delay for Google Now to retrieve information?

Have patience, the cards will appear when they're most useful. Also, the calendar cards don't appear when you make the appointment, it shows up to remind you and possibly give you an estimated time from where you are to the location of the appointment.

Give it time. Mine popped up 5 cards that I commonly get in Google Now on my Nexus 7.

So it's a initialization delay? If you add something in your calendar, does that pop up as a card right away?

When is the event? Reminders usually pop up the night before the event for me.

I tried to put it like 1 hour in the future, or 30 min in the future. I think I wanted to ask is, if you add an event that it should pop up now (e.g., it's in the evening, and the just added event is tomorrow), does it show up instantly or is there a delay for Google Now to find out about the event?

It tries to be predictive - if an event is added that happens too soon it won't pick up on it. Add a calendar event for tomorrow and see what happens.

Try hitting the refresh button at the bottom, that did it for me.

I did that, and re-opening the app. Still didn't work :-(

Wait - I'm lost here. I've downloaded the Google Search app, and I've signed in (as per the article's last paragraph). But I don't see anything called Google Now anywhere. I tried swiping (as per the video) but nada. Help?

Isn't it a stupid decision? Why would they release two of their best selling points - first Google maps, and now "Google Now" to iOS? They could have been two of the biggest USPs for Android, and they destroyed it all.

Because Google isn't a mobile company - they're a service company. They don't care if you use Android (which makes up barely any of their revenue) or iOS, so long as you use their services.

Google makes money by connecting their users to commerce opportunities. Their ability to monetize is linearly related to how many active users they have. They'd rather have 70% of the market through Android plus some proportion of non-Android users finding them through apps than have 75% of the total market and rely 100% on Android to attract users on mobile.

They get more total users and have a more diverse base. If Android starts to lose share, they still have the ability to monetize the other platforms.

"Oh you think that these apps are nice on your iPhone? Wait until you see them on Android, they are so much better."

Or look at how bad the Voice Search made Siri look.

This seems like a proof-of-concept - it doesn't even throw up iOS notifications. Integration into Chrome for iOS would probably be a better way of gaining a persistent presence in front of Google fans with an iPhone.

I really like the dynamic header pictures. It seems to be based upon your location. Any ideas how they are made / where they are from?


They are illustrated just for Google Now. Can't seem to find it now, but it a "making of" video (I think from verge) they showed a few different iterations of the top graphic and how they ended up with the current version.

I think it's a co-incidence, for me it shows snow capped mountains, and I'm in San Francisco. We don't have mountains, or snow anywhere short of driving a few hours.

In Seattle it shows a snow-capped volcano (Mount Rainier), an illustrated version of the Space Needle, the Pike Place Market sign, and a couple downtown buildings from the viewpoint of Kerry Park[1]. They have a generic rotation of images plus some location-specific ones. I'd love to see the whole collection laid out somewhere.

[1]: http://i.imgur.com/UgOhEUR.jpg

It's location based, but if it can't access the network or the location for some reason, it uses snow capped mountains as a placeholder.

I'd love to see a quick way to copy the URL of the page you're on, since I more often text people links rather than email them, and "Share via iMessage" doesn't seem to be implemented yet

I'm halfheartedly excited. Now was a great android feature, but it will only be amazing in ios if it can be hacked to run outside the app like Facebooks chat heads were recently.

I have my own google apps domain and tried to sign up for it with my email, but it says that my I haven't enabled it for my domain. Anybody know where I go to do that?

How does it affect battery life? Is it always sucking in the GPS? I was using the Moves app and I loved it, but it drained my battery faster than usual.

On Android it turns on the GPS once every 30 minutes to update your location. If another app turns on the GPS it'll take the opportunity and update then and reset the 30 minute timer.

When I got Android 4.1 with Google Now my battery life actually got better (presumably because of improvements made throughout the OS) so it's hard to say what impact it has on battery for me.

My iPhone 4S is same with yours... the APP keeps using GPS all the time...

Speaking of Google properties on Apple devices - anybody got any clues on when Google Maps might get an official iPad version?

Is there a desktop version of this? I've been looking for a replacement for the deprecated iGoogle.

Always on GPS, not cool with that.

It really needs push notifications

5 Google Apps on my homescreen. 2 Apple apps, Settings and Camera.

How do you tell Google Now on IOS where "home" is for you?

You can probably change it in the app settings, or just change it here: https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0/dashboard

Or here: https://maps.google.com/maps/myplaces?&hl=en

You can set your home address within Google Maps if you're logged into the same account Google Now is associated with. You can set your work address as well.

If you prefer to have it automagically know your work and home addresses, you can wait a few days and it will discover these on its own using GPS data.

I think if you use Google Maps and star / favourite your home location it will utilize that data in Now (for your commutes and such).

It figures it out based on, I assume, where you sleep most nights.

Finally! My dream come true!!!

What's this mean for Cue?

I love Google Now.

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