29 April, 2013

Google Now for iOS: The cheat sheet

iPhone users: Ever wonder what it would be like if Siri could actually remember what you ask? Ever feel like you're asking Siri too many questions? It seems annoying and monotonous, doesn't it?

Since Android 4.1, Google has actually had a solution to the problem, in the form of a search app overlay: Google Now. It's definitely an improvement over Siri to say the least: Using a multitude of technologies, such as the Knowledge Graph, that allow accurate parsing of not just individual questions but a whole series of back-to-back ones, and matching those server-side technologies up with the user's location and search history to actually remember what the user asks and provide the user with more and more information in real-time without the user needing to ask, Google Now has even been praised by die-hard Apple zealots like Guy Kawasaki and even Steve Wozniak as a Siri-killer. And for the longest time, it was ONLY available for Android.

Until now.

Google Search 3.0 for iOS was pushed to the App Store (and to all existing users of the Search app) at about 8:00 this morning. With it came what scores of iOS users have been crying about for almost a whole year: Google Now integration. It has just about everything the Android version has: voice search, Goggles, an integrated app launcher, and the famous real-time card feed that provides users with monotonous AND important information without the user needing to ask for it.

Well, almost.

There are a few caveats. Some cards, such as boarding passes and cards provided by third-party apps, are missing from the iOS version of the service due to obvious reasons (Apple's notorious approval process loves to not just sandbox but jail apps to their own little chroots... oh, well). And of course, unlike the Android version, iOS Google Now doesn't have any push notification ability. However, as we all know, if Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and (drumroll please) Google+ are able to send push notifications without even being open, there's no reason why the Search app can't do the same...

See the following screenshot (taken on my MD234LL/A-model iPhone 4S, courtesy of AT&T's lack of Nexus subsidization) for yourself:

This is it, my friends. Android has Google Now, and now iOS has it too. There are still a few quirks to work out, and we all know that, but from a user standpoint, there's no doubt that they look and feel almost identical to each other. There's no doubt what we're looking at here is something that users can finally rejoice about, not to mention actually get a taste of Android and just how much more powerful than iOS it has become lately.