Zero Distraction / An Anthology of Examined Nerdy Things

Is Google Now A Game Changer?

Prelude

Someone was drunk on the App Store review team this week, or were they? Google Now landed on our iOS devices today, and it looks fantastic. Whilst I’ve never used the service as it currently stands on Android, I’ve heard nothing but good things from various people I trust.

Optimism

Perhaps the Apple of yesteryear may not have approved an app such as this, but they’re doing things slightly differently now. The swath of third party browsers and other apps that compete with core functionality already delivered by iOS — that have been approved — is staggering. Competition is good though. Just look at how Apple handled the backlash when they replaced the underlying infrastructure of their Maps app from Google to their own solution. It didn’t take long before they made a special category front and center on the App Store showcasing a variety of competing apps that provide transit and mapping information. I think it’s great that we have such amazing choices available. Yes, there are admittedly massive shortcomings in iOS, from the lack of proper inter-app communication to not being able to specify what apps you want to use as the default handler for email, contacts, calendar, etc. I’m really hoping iOS 7 quells some of the most egregious concerns of developers and users alike.

So how good is Google Now?

I decided to give it a go this morning. I left the house in the early AM and pulled it up to see what was around me. I was greeted with several “cards” that showed me weather, transit information (and accurate transit data at that), beautiful scenic photos of things around me that I had no idea existed, and restaurant information. That’s just for starters. The app is able to provide a lot more information, but since I have only used it for an hour, I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m sure I’ll have a more cogent take on this after I’ve spent the better part of a week with it.

Epilogue

I have no doubt that Apple has some massive goodies in store for iOS 7, but as it stands right now, Google Now seems like a game changer. As nice as Siri can be, I’d much rather open an app to see what’s around me. I don’t like talking to my phone in public like an imbecile. Perhaps one day this will not feel awkward and everyone will speak to their mobile devices, just as easily as we do with each other. Until that day comes, I will refrain from having a public relationship with Siri.