July 22, 2012 in Commentary
Over the last few weeks, much has been made of comparing the newly released Google Now with Apple’s Siri. 聽There have been many videos posted online comparing Google Now’s voice search with that of Siri. 聽Just about every video has crowned Google Now the new king because of the speed and efficiency of it’s voice search. 聽While I do agree Google Now is a better product than Siri, the reason I think this has very little to do with voice controls.
Google Now is more than just an attempt at Siri-style voice controls. 聽True enough, Google Now does incorporate natural speech-based voice searches, but that is only a part of the puzzle. 聽Google Now truly makes your smartphone smart. 聽Google Now provides the user with useful information with little to no input from the user at all. 聽For example, if you’re standing at a bus stop or on a train platform, Google Now will know you’re waiting for the bus or train, and provide you the bus schedule or the time of the next train arrival. 聽If you have an appointment scheduled at 3:00pm, Google Now will automatically calculate the time it will take for you to get to your appointment from your current location, including any traffic delays. 聽If there is a delay on the route that will extend the time it will take for you to arrive at your appointment, Google Now will tell you ahead of time, and let you know what time you should leave. 聽If your favorite team is playing, Google Now will keep you updated with the score of the game. 聽Google Now can predict your next destination while you’re out and about, and automatically calculate the time it will take you to get there, along with any traffic on the route. 聽Also while you’re out and about, Google Now will suggest nearby places to you based on what you like. 聽Bear in mind, all these things Google Now does happens automatically, without the user having to initiate anything.
Beyond the intelligence of Google Now, it is the automation of that intelligence that further sets it apart from Siri. 聽Obviously, Siri can’t touch the features of Google Now, but the fact these features automate themselves places Google Now in a league of its own. 聽Whereas Siri is only useful if you are actively using it and ask it a question or give it command, Google Now is useful whether you’re actively in the app or not. 聽I experienced this, this past Friday when I decided to meet a friend for dinner. 聽I used Google Maps to locate a place to eat and headed out in that direction. 聽While en route I decided to check the traffic so I would know the best route to take. 聽I looked at my phone and Google Now was already showing me a card displaying the best route, complete with drive time to the restaurant, and traffic along the way. 聽I was going to seek this information out, but Google Now had already beaten me to it. 聽Google Now knew I’d need to know the best route to the restaurant I was going to, and provided me with very useful information. 聽The first time Google Now did something like this for me was on the 4th of July. 聽While at a cookout, Google Now predicted I’d be going home and automatically calculated the best route and displayed it to me. 聽Again, I didn’t initiate anything. 聽All I did was turn my screen on, pull down the notification panel, and the information was already there waiting for me. 聽It is this level of intelligence that places Google Now well ahead of Siri. 聽There is no contest, Siri can’t come close to touching it. 聽Google Now is in a league of its own.