The latest update to the Google Search app for iOS, which released to the public on Monday, introduced Google Now to Apple’s line of mobile devices. In addition to the search function, Google's app can now act as more of a personal assistant by pulling information from several Google services -- such as Gmail, Calendar and Maps -- into cards and reminders.
The Google Now cards provide information like traffic updates, weather, stock information and nearby shops. Google Now uses GPS information to make the cards relevant to each user, and even uses browser history to make suggestions.
What’s perhaps most impressive about Google Now is that it “learns” what the user wants as he or she uses Google’s services. For example, if someone has been searching for a type of restaurant, Google Now displays a card showing the closest one. The app can also use location information to know when a person makes their daily commute, and provide the traffic card at the appropriate time of day.
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Google Now also integrates with voice search to provide a pretty powerful competitor to Apple’s Siri and Passbook combination. Asking Google questions such as “Do I need an umbrella this weekend?” will pull up the weather card and reply with the forecast. Asking for nearby pizza places will pull up a Google Maps card and provide directions, phone numbers and more.
Google Now has come baked into Android phones since 2012, and not all of the features work on the iOS version. Cards like Boarding Pass, Activity Summary, Nearby Events and Fandango aren’t included, and it can’t yet push notifications. In general, Apple’s closed operating system prevents Google Now from integrating to all aspects of the phone the way it does with Android.
There are, however, some nice customizations options on the Google Now iOS app that aren’t available to Android users. The Google Now traffic card, for example, can be set to appear at certain times and only display certain transportation modes. Along with rumors that Google will add Now to its homepage, this push to iOS is another indication that the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is investing heavily in the app. Google’s annual I/O conference is less than a month away, and many predict that Google Now will be a main attraction.