The last 24 hours has been a rollercoaster for Google Now, the self learning virtual assistance program Google built. After it was discovered that there was a reference to the feature in the latest Chromium release, technology website Engadget found a promotional video of Google Now for iOS on YouTube which now has been pulled.
So apart from seeing Google Now on the Chrome OS and the Windows version of Chrome, Google Now could be making its way to iPhones and iPads soon.
Google Apps on iOS
Seems like iOS users get the best of all worlds. Photosynth, the 360 panorama app from Microsoft was available on iOS, a long time before it came to Windows Phones. Google on its part has often launched features seen on its Android phones without much delay on iOS phones. Last October, Google updated its ‘Search’ app with voice recognition which in our opinion recognizes voices much better than Siri.
It also launched an updated Gmail app on iOS, the user interface of which is much better than that seen on the Android Gmail app. In fact, Google extended that UI to its mobile web version of Gmail this week for all iOS, Android and BlackBerry users.
The Google Map app, which was present from the first version of iOS, was removed from iOS 6 by Apple and was replaced by its own map app. Apple Maps was a half-baked product with incomplete information. Apple was highly criticized and this even saw the departure of Scott Forstall, senior vice-president of iOS Software at Apple in October 2012 over the controversy. Google re-released its Map app on the App Store in December 2012, with turn-by-turn navigation and it has since been one of the most downloaded apps on iOS.
Google also released other standalone apps for its services like YouTube and Google Drive on the iOS platform.
The Google Now for iOS Video
The video which was spotted and reported by Engadget, was immediately pulled by Google. We do not know from which account it was posted but the video seemed genuine as it used the same style as the Google Now ad for Android as well as the voice in the two ads are similar. It could also be a fake as no actually device is shown. The video can still be viewed on the Engadget site.
The video suggests that users will be able to launch Google Now from a simple swipe up from the bottom of the screen on iOS from within the ‘Search’ app. The other features from Android look to all be there.
It will offer driving directions, airport and fight information, currency conversion and language conversion when you are in another country, sport scores as well as will tell you of interesting events and restaurants when you are close by.
The Google Now Android Story
Google Now was one of the highlights when Google announced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It is present on Android devices running on 4.1 and above, which according to figures released by Google earlier this month is just 16.5% of all Android devices. If Google does release Google Now it will be available for more iOS devices than Android devices. Is it likely that Google could also release Google Now for Ice Cream Sandwich devices? Being a key Android feature we hope to see it on at least ICS devices soon.
What is Google Now?
Google Now can be best described as a virtual assistant but is unlike Apple’s Siri in so many ways. Google Now is packed with features that build on voice actions that Google offered in previous versions of Android and adds support for natural language queries. It also has a passive mode in which it displays contextually relevant information.
Google Now is not present as a separate app but is integrated into the search app. The voice control interface in Google Now records full sentences and converts it to text which is then passed on as a command to Google.
With Google Now you can dictate an email or text message, search Google, perform a calculation or unit conversion, get the definition of a word, get a stock quote (US only), search the phone’s address book or for a particular app on the phone, set an alarm, get travel directions and get the current weather conditions. It also displays stuff based on your location, like interesting restaurants or sights to visit. When you are travelling it displays various information like currency conversion, translation and also time back home. The information is all displayed on a preemptive basis. When the user has a meeting, for example, Google Now will helpfully offer directions to the location and an estimation of how long it will take to arrive there in current traffic conditions. It also figures out where your home and work place is and will remind you every day at the right now when to leave based on traffic conditions.
To use Google Now on a Nexus device all one has to do is swipe up from the bottom of a screen. On a Samsung 4.1+ device one presses the home button and then selects the Google icon.
Google relies on Wikipedia and on search results as its data sources for most queries. When Google Now can’t answer a factual query, it displays the results of a Google search for the query phrase.
Google Now can also track what searches you made either on the mobile or on a desktop browser if you were logged into Google and offer suggestions on the phone.
Overall, Google Now learns in time and becomes more and more useful the more you use it.