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Google Now – turn your smartphone into a companion

Google Now

Google Now has arrived on iOS marking the first time such a service has been transferred across platforms. But what exactly is it and what makes it so special?

Google Now

This week, something historic has happened. Google Now, the intelligent ‘personal assistant’ that first arrived as a core part of the Jelly Bean update to the Android platform, has arrived on iOS devices such as the iPhone 5. This marks the first time that the much vaunted service has appeared on anything other than an Android phone.

But why is this such a big deal? What is about Google Now that makes it so good?

Perhaps the most important fact is that, like Apple’s Siri service, Google Now actually uses artificial intelligence algorithms in order to provide relevant information to the user. This information is provided in the form of ‘cards’, which can be customised to show you exactly the information that you want, but the really cool thing is that Google Now learns how you use it. You can set it to automatically learn your routine, so that your phone, whether it’s a HTC One or a Samsung Galaxy S4 for example, knows where you are and what you’re doing, to provide relevant information.

For example, it can use your location to give you accurate weather reports for that area. If you’re driving, it can provide real-time traffic alerts, or let you know if there are any tourist attractions around (through its integration with Google Maps). It can show you what movies are hot at the moment, and crucially, where they’re showing, near your location.

In short, then, Google Now really is a true personal assistant, and the fact that it can automatically learn what information you want, and produce it without you even having to ask, gives it a bit of an edge over Apple’s Siri.

As a standard part of Google Now, it also offers Google Voice Search, again drawing comparisons with Siri (and in this case, with S-Voice, as found in Samsung phones such as the aforementioned Galaxy S4 or Korean manufacturer’s big screen ‘phablet’, the Samsung Galaxy Note II). However, a lot of people have tried out the two together, and the conclusions seems to be that Google’s solution is by far the best voice search out there, usually returning more accurate results, and more quickly, than Siri.

As for the reason why it usually provides more accurate results, that’s down to it leveraging the ongoing research of Google’s Knowledge Graph project. This ongoing is designed to work out the semantic meaning of search phrases, similar to how the Wolfram Alpha engine (which is itself used by Siri) works. The end goal is to provide meaningful context to the search results, and Google Now takes full advantage of this, to provide the best service possible.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that Google Now is such a big draw, when it comes to Android phones. It is a brilliant service, that really can benefit the user in ways they might not even have thought of, and now, iOS users can get in on the fun.

When people talk about the future of mobile phones, it’s hard to imagine that future not having Google Now as a big part of it!

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