So . . . There’s Google Now, But Do I Need It?

Lately, I’ve seen two schools of thought: those who love Google Now, and those who don’t. Blogger and fellow Android Visionary show host, Mike Fuller, posted this Google+ thread that got me thinking more about the issue of Google Now. I’m obviously on team “Google Now is Great,” but Mike makes some (well, one) compelling arguments about the nonessential nature of Google Now.

Mike says, “I don’t get enough from Google Now to make it worthwhile. I can ask Google for the same info with a button press and I get the same info.” My counter was simple: widgets.

But Mike makes a good point. Essentially he’s saying, since Google Now is just an expanded version of Google Voice Search, why have it? The “necessity” of Google Now is even less if you don’t use the Google Now widget.

Google Now excels at giving you information

My primary love for Google Now comes from the Google Now widget. I really like having various bits of information displayed on my homescreen.

When my San Francisco 49ers play football, or I have a package coming, it’s nice to see the “what’s happening now” content. Though usually, Google Now isn’t much more than a good way to see what the weather is.

Google Now Widget

Of course, the weather is available from other, more robust weather apps. And if package tracking is all that important, Gmail offer that, too.

Certainly, I’m a fan of the flight information card that displays departure and arrival times, and even gives a small tracker to show where the plane is. But that tracker only works with an internet connection, and frankly, I never get the in-flight WiFi.

But Search is where Now really helps

Unfortunately, too many people conflate Google Now with Google Voice search. Google Now is a Voice Search option, not a requirement. As Mike points out, the same information available in Google Now is available by actually searching Google – it just takes a few more seconds to retrieve.

Similarly, voice commands are not Google Now-specific. In fact, they are technically appendages of Voice Search.

And, if you’re not familiar with voice commands, check out this post.

Truthfully, most of my useful elements of Google Now actually come from voice commands. In fact, I’m constantly commanding Google to call, text, email, or give me directions, as opposed to tracking packages, viewing sports scores, or seeing the latest television programs.

So really, when you extrapolate Google Voice Search from Google Now, perhaps Mike was right. Perhaps Google Now is just a novelty.

But I can’t get by without my Google Now

Novelty or not, I’m not ready though to throw in the towel and totally ditch Google Now. I like my Now cards that display in their widget, and I’m especially fond of some of the useful connections, such as to my calendar.

What most people want is a Siri alternative for Android, and as Google’s development teams keeps improving search and voice commands, Google Now will get closer to becoming a truly useful assistant.

However, if you “wanna be like Mike,” and ditch your Google Now, it’s pretty easy:

  1. Open Google (Google app)
  2. Click Menu (3 dots in the lower right corner)
  3. Click Settings
  4. Toggle Google Now to off

Turning off Google Now disables all cards and the Google Now widget. Be warned, you may feel a little exposed after dropping your cards.

What are your thoughts on Google Now’s necessity? Is it just a novelty item for you, or do you actually, truly use the content?

3 Responses to So . . . There’s Google Now, But Do I Need It?

  1. I’m sure it’s just dandy if your name is something like Newton, or Fuller, or Taylor. But if your name is “Koenecke,” like mine, it’s darned near useless, as trying to tell Google Now to call or text my wife, daughter, or son is an exercise in futility. Yes, I can get it to set an alarm for fifteen minutes from now, but most things require visual confirmation. It’s got a long way to go before it makes the phone truly usable hands-free.

    • Mr. Koenecke,

      I understand your frustration, as I too was unable to get Google to understand your last name. However, unless your wife or daughter have the same name as other contacts in your address book, you ought to be able to address them to Google by first name only, such as “Call Debra” or “Text Lucy Did you pick up Debra?”

      Assuming their first names are spelled phonetically it should work. It would be good if the “nickname” field in the contacts was cross-referenced during one of these voice commands, but I did not have any luck trying that method. Worst Case Scenario, change her name to “Wife” then you can say “call wife”. It isn’t perfect, or right, but it will work until Google gets better at letting us train words to spelling combinations.

      Imagine if you could say “train a word” and then repeat it five times and provide a text field to hunker down on the context.

      Honestly, I’m tired of giving Google great ideas like that one and then waiting for them to NEVER implement it.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.