Google Now is one of the reasons you need to upgrade your Android device to Android 4.1 or 4.2. I’ve heard a lot of comments from readers who are hesitant to use Google Now because of the “Google Borg.” I can empathize, especially with Google’s revelations about government requests. Many feel that allowing Google even more access opens up even more concerns for privacy diminished privacy. However, as I said here, privacy is dead, regardless of whether Google knows you or not.
The fact is, Google Now and it’s companion app, Voice Search, are tremendously beneficial.
In case you don’t know, Google Now is Android/Google’s answer to Siri. Rather than being a full virtual assistant
(and congratulating you for wiping your own butt), Google Now takes a more hands-off approach by presenting you with a combination of helping tasks and useful information. Google Now is integrated into the Android OS, giving it the ability to perform a variety of tasks like sending emails, making phone calls, setting calendar appointments, and searching for information. My favorite aspect of Google Now are the handy “cards” that appear for a variety of topics. You can see a full list of cards here.
Voice Search is essentially Google’s search capabilities coupled into voice commands. For instance, voice search could search Google for clam chowder recipes just by saying “search clam chowder recipes.” Basically, anything you search for in your browser can be done via Voice Search on Android.
The voice commands are particularly handy when I’m driving and need to send a quick message or response. I also love that I can grab directions and open navigation simply by using voice commands.
Until the Jelly Bean versions of Android, voice commands were admittedly sub-par. Now, as you see, voice commands are great. Here’s a list of common commands:
- Navigation - say “Navigate to [place name]” or “Take me to [place name]“; Note: you can set “home” and “work” addresses to simplify those directions;
- Open an app – say “Open [app name]“; works for most apps
- Make a phone call – say “Call [contact's name]“
- Text - say “Send text [or SMS] to [contact's name] [message contents]“; Note: make sure your message immediately follows in one run-on-like sentence;
- Set an alarm – say “Set alarm for [time]“; Note: you can add text by continuing your statement;
- Send an email - say “Send email to [contact's name] subject [subject of email] message [email contents/message]“;
- Calendar event - say “Create calendar event [event name] [place] [time]“; Note: you can say days (Friday at Noon) or dates (May 28, 2013 at 3:00); I also find it calendaring works best if you use 24 hour time;
- Play a song - say “Listen to [song name, artist, or album]“
As you get used to Google Now and voice commands, I’m sure you’ll find more and more uses for them. If you’re running a custom launcher, such as Nova Launcher, you can create a custom gesture to allow you to directly open the app. My custom gesture is a swipe up to open voice command.