If you haven’t yet discovered the glorious world of virtual assistants, it’s time to meet Google Now. A bit like the more robust version of Apple’s Siri, Google Now acts like the quiet, informative personal assistant you’ve always wanted but couldn’t justify affording. Sure, it certainly pervades your privacy to figure out just what you need to know and when (just like the human variety!), but if you’re willing to take that risk, the rewards are plenty.
Google Now: A Definition
Google Now officially launched in the Jelly Bean Android operating system what seems like ages ago, and is now available in both Google Play and Apple app stores. It works on tablets, too. Because it needs to access all your personal data, it is necessary to first turn Google Now on, as the default is set to off (which is a good thing, or some of us would really get paranoid.) You’ll also need to enable Web history, location services, and other allowances, depending on the features you’re after.
Once triggered, Google Now will serve you a series of “cards” throughout the day, which aim to keep you informed about valuable time-saving tidbits. Examples include weather forecasts, flight information, meeting schedules, and sports updates. These will either show up as notifications, or will display when you launch Chrome via your enabled smartphone. Keep in mind that just like most apps, Google Now is a work in progress. What you currently see is likely a skeleton of what it will become.
An Upgrade from Siri
Google Now is like hiring a more efficient and reliable Siri, Apple’s own version of a virtual assistant. Although both have their strengths and weaknesses, Google Now seems much more robust and functional over the not-so-reliable Siri. Like its Apple counterpart, Google Now responds to voice commands for a host of functions. The good news is this aspect of the app works like a charm. Use it to verbally set appointments or alarms, ask what time a business opens or closes, find out where the nearest Starbucks is located, or inquire if you need to bring an umbrella out on the town this eve. Essentially, what Google Now excels at is providing little time savers throughout the day. These really add up over time, however, and you may find an extra chunk in your busy day to do something other than chase down pertinent information. Siri covers a few of these commands, but definitely not all of them.
A Sampling of Google Now Cards
Below is a list of some of the more functional Google Now cards, including a couple just added this month. If any of the recent additions are any indication, you’re going to want to offer your new virtual assistant a raise (good thing he’s free.)