Thursday, January 16, 2014

Google Now: Another Valiant Effort at Digitizing Our Lives

Many new phones with Android have Google Now built in and there is an app that does kind of the same thing in iOS. To explain it basically, Google Now wants to provide the information you want, exactly when you need it, all based on previous location history, to-the-minute location tracking, and activity on your Google account. I've been using Google Now for awhile now, and although it is useful in several situations, I've found it much easier to use other apps, and even when I do use Google Now, its not that great. Here I will make my case why Google Now is a step forward, but not quite there yet: The range of features are not as extensive or as easy as you want them to be, and it can be an inconvenience to have it on your phone.

The commercial on Google's website for Now makes it seem pretty cool. A businesswoman getting how long it is until home and a father following a baseball game while at his son's soccer game. I'm not sure where I saw this, but I used to be under the impression that it was the equivalent of Siri as well. Its not. Maybe I'm not in a big-enough city, but all the places I go I already know how long it will take me to get to different places, almost without variance. With weather, I've discovered that AccuWeather is more accurate  than Google Now is. The search feature, which takes your previous searches and recommends content based on those searches, is pretty cool but also has some flaws. For example, I searched the release date of the show "Sherlock". Google Now recommended me a story based on my search. The problem was, I had read that after the search. Now maybe this was an isolated incident, but I have rarely looked at those suggestions since. As for the Siri-like features, those too disappoint. Google Now isn't stellar at playing music, sending texts, etc. This made it really frustrating moving from my 4S, where I used Siri pretty often. The only cool thing about this line of Now features is that if you play music into the phone, it can identify the song. As far as the features of Google Now, I believe that I was promised a lot more than I got. Don't get me wrong, I think that with a little more development, it could be pretty cool, but like some other technology right now, its just not there.

As for the convenience of Google Now, I've found that it really doesn't live up to its promises either. As I said with AccuWeather, I don't even have to look at my notifications to see the weather, and if you click into the app like you do with Now, you get the full forecast, not just Google's daily weather and temperature. Another way I've found Google Now to be inconvenient is because, on my phone at least, you swipe up from the bottom to access it. This has been surprisingly annoying because as it happens I accidentally pull up a little, quite a bit, leading to an unwanted session of Google Now. On iOS, Now is even more inefficient to use, as it comes in a separate Google app, not even Chrome. So not only do you have to open a separate app than the Google app you use most, you actually have to do the same swipe-up inside the app. I don't know why anybody would continue to use Google Now on iOS when its that hard to access, Google Now is supposed to be all about convenience and ease.

So these are my reasons why I don't like Google Now, as of now (clever play on words, right?). Its just not developed to the point where its overly useful. To me, its more of an inconvenience and I'll probably disable it here soon, I can get the same stuff better with other apps anyway. Give Google about a year though, and with usual Google finesse and efficiency I bet they will have gotten it to the point where I will re-enable it on my phone.

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