Google Now looks to be one of the recent success stories in the world of consumer technology, an unusual and innovative creation that has taken the idea of searching online to another level.
The service, which gathers personalised information on a user and offers search results without being prompted, has clearly become a hit. A Dialaphone poll which asked whether or not our readers regularly use Google Now found that the resounding answer is “Yes”.
Where many innovations in the tech world can fall by the wayside, even with the support of enormous corporations such as Google, it looks like Google Now has struck a chord with smartphone users and is fast entering everyday use.
Even though smartphone features can quickly come and go, the success that Google Now has seen is impressive, especially considering that it launched less than a year ago. Arriving with Android Jelly Bean and first being shown in June last year, the service was initially restricted to handsets running the updated version of Google’s mobile platform.
The premise behind it is quite simple; after signing in with a Google account a user’s search history, calendar entries and email will be tracked and a profile built up. Google Now then compares this profile with other data, such as time and location (using a smartphone’s GPS) to deliver information that may be relevant to that user, without them having to ask for it.
This information pops up on the Google Now interface in the form of small tiles of basic information, many of which offer links to other Google services. For instance, one card that we have found regularly popping up shows us how long it will take to drive home from the Dialaphone office; tapping it opens up the Google Maps app and gives more detail about traffic, alternative types of transport and other possible routes.
While the actual service that Google Now offers is innovative, its unusual nature doesn’t stop there. On Android devices the service is accessed not from an app icon but by swiping upwards from the bottom of the device’s display, making it an integral part of the UI. However, the skinning that can be seen on many Android user interfaces means that this function is sometimes removed, with the HTC One being a particular example of this. Users of the Taiwanese firm’s flagship can open Google Now by tapping and holding on the home button instead.
Having debuted on Android, Google Now made its way to iOS in April 2013, albeit in a slightly different form. Due to the nature of Apple’s platform the upwards swipe launch gesture was never going to work so Google Now has been incorporated into the Google Search app, although a swipe is still used to switch between it and the regular search function.
Praise has been heaped on the app’s design and the smooth way in which it transitions between search and Google Now, something that we found to be very impressive.
So Google Now has taken off and is being widely adopted, with rumours of a possible desktop variant making its way to the Google homepage sometime later this year.
However, we found that although our blog readers overwhelmingly indicated that they use Google’s predictive-search service this was not replicated when we asked the same question on our Facebook page. More people said they were not everyday users of the service, something which may bode well for the social-network’s Graph Search feature as it continues to roll out.
Whatever may happen, we don’t imagine Google Now seeing any drop off of users in the near future although some may be uncomfortable with allowing Google the level of access to personal information that is required to make full use of the service. However, it appears that the innovative search idea has enough fans to continue apace.
Couple this with the enormous support that Google is able to put behind it and you may well find your smartphone giving information, updates and directions long before you ever knew you wanted them.