What is Google Now?

29 November 2013

Google Now is a mobile personal assistant service combined with the power of Google’s search engine. Using either voice or keyboard input, you can access quick information or issue a selection of phone commands.

In some ways, Google Now is like Apple’s Siri, but the goal for Now is loftier. Google designed Now to answer questions before you ask them, based on where you are, the time of day, and bits of information Google knows about you.

When you open Google Now you should see a selection of ‘cards’ which the software predicts will be useful for you. There is weather, calendar reminders, suggested restaurants nearby and sports scores, for example.

The software is built in to all new Android smartphones and tablets. Press and hold your home button to launch. If it doesn’t open automatically, then select the “g” icon from the menu that does appear. On other phones you might need to swipe up from the on-screen home button to activate it.

On phones with the vanilla Android layout (Jelly Bean 4.3 and above), you can activate the app by just saying “OK, Google” and saying your command.

Layout and UI

The card-style layout makes for easy reading, as well as quick management. Cards from your previous Google Now actions stick around, making them easy to access again. You can easily get rid of them swiping them off the side of the screen.

Scrolling to the bottom of the list you can also access Reminders, Customise or Settings. If you’re a first time users, it’s a good idea to have a poke around the latter two and streamline your experience.

Voice interface

The voice interface allows you to launch apps, make calls or dictate texts and emails, among other things.

It’s about as accurate as Apple’s Siri when it comes to actual speech recognition. Unlike Siri, Google Now revolves around a more specific-command style of voice recognition. This doesn’t give the same casual feel as Siri, but it means that you don’t get quite as many random results.

Here’s a short list of some Google Now voice command examples:

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