Look out Siri, there’s a new smartphone assistant in town. Google launched Google Now for iPhone and iPad users on April 30. Available for Android devices for nearly a year, the new iOS version of Google Now is aimed at competing with Apple’s Siri talking assistant application. But initial reports are mixed as far as what the launch of Google Now means for millions of smartphone users worldwide. Google’s entrance into this market offers features not found on Siri and is certain to be a game changer.
What is Google Now?
Google Now is a new voice-activated intelligent personal assistant application developed for smartphones with Android and iOS operating systems. Google Now anticipates users’ needs based on their previous Web activity, location and other personal information. For instance, if a user asks if she needs a jacket, Google Now will give the weather report in her part of the world. If the user asks the cast of a current movie, the program will also tell them where the movie is playing nearby. The application is proactive. Google Now will alert a user when they should leave the office for an appointment or flight based on the weather, airport delays and traffic.
Google Now vs. Siri
Named the “Innovation of the Year” in 2012 by Popular Science magazine, Google Now seems to be living up to the hype surrounding its launch. The magazine called Siri “outdated” compared to Google Now. The major difference is that, unlike Siri, Google Now provides both active and passive responses. It answers direct questions audibly, while displaying related information on the screen. So, instead of having to ask Siri about Windows server web hosting and other computer needs, Google Now can anticipate your wanting that information based on several factors.
Google Now is not likely to make Siri totally obsolete. An article in USA Today suggested that Google Now is best used as a supplement to Siri, not a replacement. Siri is the superior voice assistant application, but Google Now’s anticipation of your requests makes it useful and intriguing, according to the article. They prefer Siri because she answers every request, even if only to seek clarification, whereas Google Now will often remain silent.
One potential mark against Google Now revolves around privacy issues. Compared to Siri, Google Now requires that you share a good amount of personal information so that the application can anticipate your requests based on past browsing, your age, location, job, interests etc. Not everyone is comfortable with that level of disclosure. Google Now’s performance is only as good as the information the app receives from you.
The Future of Google Now
Google Now is headed toward a desktop near you, according to CNET.com. There are indications within the Google Now code that it is being considered as a replacement for iGoogle, Google’s customized home page. However, no announcement to that effect has been made by Google. We’ll just have to wait and see.