I’ve had Android 4.1 Jelly Bean for a couple of days now on the Galaxy Nexus and I’ve had a difficult time putting the phone down and taking a break from using Google Now. It’s not that I haven’t had the use of Siri before on the iPhone 4S, but I’m in awe of the speed and accuracy of its answers.
Google Now is a separate product from Google for Android devices that happens to come included with the latest version of its Android operating system, Jelly Bean. The idea behind this would-be Siri competitor is to provide the user with instant access to a wide range of information and functionality accessible by voice alone. Asking questions about Kobe Bryant’s height or the age of your favorite celebrity might be fun (and admittedly trivial), but the real strength behind Google Now is in what it does to make your life a little easier. Pulling up bus information as you approach a bus stop or warning you about impending traffic jams as you begin your morning commute are arguably some of the most essential components of what we see as the mobile operating environment of the future.
For once, a phone can predict your needs and provide you with information that can help you along your way. Whether it’s updated info about your upcoming flight or quick turn-by-turn directions to your next appointment, this is one service to keep your eyes out for. It may just be the “Siri” killer we’ve all been hearing about, after all.
If I were to compare the two voice search services, I’d have to say that while Siri wins in personality, Google Now takes the prize in sheer features and speed. The delay between asking a question and receiving one (or more) answers is trivial. If Apple’s improvements to Siri in iOS 6 don’t truly change the way the service works, all the jokes and whimsical responses won’t help it to maintain its reputation for being the leader in voice-activated virtual mobile assistants.
Below is a short list of some of the things you can ask Google Now:
- Weather Questions
- What’s the weather like?
- Do I need an umbrella?
- Will it be hot tomorrow?
- What is the temperature outside?
- How old is Tom Cruise?
- How tall is Kobe Bryant?
- Who was the fifth President of the United States?
- When did Mother Teresa die?
- What is Bill Gates’ net worth?
- Show me a picture of Chris Pirillo
- Places / Travel
- Where is the nearest gas station?
- What is the world’s tallest building?
- Where can I get a pizza?
- How do I get to Seattle, WA?
- Call me a taxi. (This one actually calls the nearest taxi company)
- Show me a picture of a hot air balloon.
- Are the Dodgers playing today?
- What was the score of the last Dodgers game?
- What is 242 divided by 24.2?
- What is a no-hitter?
- Call Angela.
- Send a text message to Angela. I love you.
- Set an alarm for 9:00 a.m.
- Remind me to take out the trash at five.
- Send an email to Angela.
This is just a short list of some of the things that Google Now is making possible through speech recognition and search. This, in addition to location-activated updates including bus schedules and discount offers helps make Android a formidable force in the extremely competitive mobile market.
Sure, the novelty of having a digital assistant available to you through your mobile device may wear off after some time. It could be argued that Siri and Google Now are far from complete, and some tasks are still easier done the old-fashioned way. Perhaps these assumptions are right, but for me I sleep a little bit better knowing that people are using speech recognition instead of staring at the tiny screen while walking or driving.