Knowledge is Power
If you ever gave up on Siri after a few cursory chats revealed she wasn't up to much, then you might fancy a shot at Google's alternative to being your digital assistant. Hot on the heels of acquiring Wavii last week, Google is pushing voice recognition and smarter search response to iOS today in a version 3.0 update to the Google Search app.
Google Now has been available on Android for sometime, but has been folded into the iOS search app to bring more knowledge and useful tips to your Apple device. However, as a third-party app on iOS it can't use all of the Android's feature set. Missing is integration with the likes of Boarding Pass, Activity summary, Events and other services, it also lacks push notifications.
A quick video explains the main thrust of the feature set, but its funny to see that Google can't even bear to show a proper iOS device, such is the enmity between the two. Still, with Google's Maps app way more popular than Apple's, the YouTube app being way more popular than using a browser and now this, perhaps Google can feel quietly superior.
The app works through pre-loaded "cards" that show local information, if something isn't relevant, swipe it away to get rid of it. As you move around your local area, updates will be added, or you can ask questions through the speech feature. If you travel widely then it will update with new useful information like currency rates, local phrases and more.
Going Google On You
The app can bring you weather, traffic, public transport and flight details. Your appointments based on your Google data, sports and stocks news, birthday reminders and other information. Talk to it and your text is translated to speech on the fly, and while the app doesn't speak to you in Siri's husky tones, information is delivered in the form of search results quickly and effectively, but you'll need a few more taps to drill down to find a genuine answer.
Much of the feedback on today's news comes from Android owners who can't use the Now features yet as it isn't compatible with older versions of Google's OS, something that Apple rarely gets accused of.
With Yahoo also showing initiative and verve in this area with its Summly acquisition, it looks like providing better live information is going to be one of the key themes for device and information providers for the rest of 2013. Whatever happens, users should win this war as better services come our way.