by Greg Sterling –
Google Now for iOS had been anticipated since March, when Engadget discovered a promotional video suggesting it would make the leap. Until its release this morning, Google Now had been available exclusively on devices running Android 4.1 (“Jelly Bean”) or higher.
We’ve written multiple times about Google Now in the past. But, if for some reason you’re unfamiliar with it, Google Now is the company’s “search assistant,” offering “predictive” or “anticipatory” search by combining dynamic contextual information with structured data, presented on nicely formatted “cards.”
Danny Sullivan has written a companion article, The Amazing “Google Now” — When Google Searches Before You Think To, which provides additional background and a reintroduction to the service.
The images immediately below are screenshots provided by Google illustrating how Google Now results will look on the iPhone — essentially identical to the Android version.
Google Now cards offer information on traffic, weather, sports scores, nearby places, currency conversions, movie showtimes, package tracking and considerably more. It’s a growing list of categories and data sources. Google Now will even prompt you to continue searching on previous search topics (e.g., flights to Kona). The chart below shows the full range of content and information available via Google Now.
Because we didn’t get early access to the app, we don’t know whether Google Now will operate differently on iOS vs. the Android version. It’s a safe bet, however, that you won’t be able to “swipe up” from the bottom of the iPhone (or iPad) screen to launch Google Now. (But, see postscript below.)
As a general matter, in the iOS version, Google Now will provide essentially the same content and functionality that Android users have been enjoying. The major difference is that the full range of information “cards” won’t be immediately available for iOS. We understand they will eventually come over, however.
Google Now is a compelling product and has improved since its launch last year. It also illustrates how the future of search will be different from its past. The combination search/Web history, data and context enable Google Now to give users lots of personalized information about lots of things without having to ask for any of it.
Back in 2010, Marrisa Mayer (then at Google) was promoting the idea of “contextual discovery,” which would “push information to people” based on their location and what they are doing. Before that, in 2009, she was talking about “the perfect search engine” as one that would have a more holistic understanding of user needs and would be able to deliver data or content in an “informative and coherent way.”
Google Now embodies both of those sets of aspirations. However one question is whether iPad and iPhone owners will actually use it.
An online survey I conducted in June of last year (n=503 iPhone 4S owners) found that most people either searched from the Safari toolbar (using Google as the default engine) or went to Google.com on the mobile Web. Just under 20 percent of respondents said they used the search app.
Which of the following do you use MOST OFTEN to search the web on your phone?
- I visit Google.com to search: 44.9 percent
- I use search in the Safari toolbar: 26.4 percent
- I use the Google mobile app: 19.3 percent
- I use Siri to search the web: 11.1 percent
- I use Bing and/or Yahoo: 6.6 percent
These survey responses shouldn’t be seen as definitive, but merely indicative, that most iOS users don’t currently use the search app as their primary way to access Google. In that context, Google Now for iOS can be seen partly as a bid to get iOS users to both sign in (which is a requirement) and search more.
Beyond all the “under the hood” capabilities, Google Now translates the otherwise basic mobile search experience into a richer and more dynamic app-based experience.