The Next Gmail Change: Pictures Shown Automatically Via Email

gmailFor anyone with a Gmail account, you know just how annoying it can be when, every time you log in, you’re asked which senders can and can’t show their pictures (whether attached or embedded). A feature since the mogul’s begging, this practice is still in effect years after ongoing overhauls. They’ve changed their look, opted for a new way to write emails (in the bottom of the page, so that one can still view previous messages), and created a labeling system to better point out spam and phishing schemes.

Not to mention the change from Google Talk to Hangouts, and Docs to Drive. And just as we get used to a new set of features, it’s as though they’re throwing over the next round of email accessories.

Next on their list? Automatically displaying pictures in every email – even without the user’s permission. With all the new security features put into place, Google is able to identify spam (for the most part) before it even hits the inbox. So to bank on these growing features, they thought they’d save us a few steps. No more picture approval, just email opening and a visual aspect that’s waiting to be seen.

Why the Change is Long Overdue

When was the last time you were given the option to display pictures from an email you didn’t want? (Or at least didn’t know the sender?) Half the time, it’s the display that lets us know whether or not the email is worthy in the first place. Yet, time and time again, we’re forced to click our link of approval, just to see whether or not the mail is legit.

Besides, even if there was spam sending us photos – how would it harm our computer? If anything, it’s acting as a “spam flag” alerting us all the quicker that questionable content is in the mix. With the added step taken out, we can more quickly identify crap emails and get them reported to the proper authorities.

Why there’s no telling why Google – the Internet king – waited so long to make this ancient change, it’s high time we take advantage of its new feature. Whether looking for spam, cleaning out an inbox, or searching for legitimate content, the upgrade offers a new realm of freedom.

Look to your inbox for this and more upcoming changes in your Gmail account.

Facebook Ads primed to replace Google Ads

facebook_vs_google_featuredFor years, Google has proven to be the giant in Internet marketing with returns paralleled to none. With statistics predicting a growth of up to 77.3 percent this year, you should be expecting Google to make a fortune out of the business that it has continually monopolized courtesy of its firm control over search traffic, YouTube and Google Adsense.

Statistics Show that a new Giant is on the Rise in the Market

Google’s dominance faces challenges from upcoming Facebook, which is taking the ad market by a storm courtesy of its convenient support for mobile devices. In 2012, Facebook claimed $390 million off the ad market. Even though this is a mere 9.5 percent of the total market and minimal compared to what Google earns, it is an improvement for Facebook that experts believe will hold with the values for this year expected to climb to 13.2 percent.

This apparently trivial market percentage covers for over 88 percent of Facebook’s revenue collection in the past 12 months.  Even though Facebook has shown its intent of being more than a social site by venturing into search engine service provision with its Facebook Graph, the ads constantly popping up on your Facebook for Android or iOS app are still the main revenue sources for Mark Zuckerberg and his team.

Is the Growth just for a Season or is it Here to Stay?

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As the number of smartphone owners grows by the day, the number of hours people spend in front of their computer screens decreases exponentially. The number of people accessing their social site pages and other Internet services through their mobile devices is on the rise making ads placed on such platforms more viable that those targeting PC users. Since Facebook strongly focuses on access while on the go, I believe that it has what it takes to capitalize on this new Internet use trend.

Though Google Ads might still command more clicks per unit time, the price revenue generated per ad on mobile is comparatively lower than what Facebook has on offer. Experts argue that Facebook has an upper hand in the move from fixed to mobile computing since it was born in the era and has had to work out its solutions from scratch, unlike Google which has had to modify its strategies.

Facebook-Mark-zuckerberg

Facebook’s ability to merge mobile and desktop ads (unlike Google that needs different designs for each platform) makes it easier for advertisers to deliver the same content to their audience without incurring extra cost. With Facebook ad efficiency this high, demand for advertising space is bound to go up, and so will the total revenue generated per fiscal year. In essence, Facebook has the winning formula it needs to make it big in desktop and mobile advertising!

Is Chromecast the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread?

chromecastBack in July, Google announced the release of Chromecast — its latest pride and joy to come from the billion-dollar idea factory. The device, which is only about two inches long, works to stream video (or simply screens) from a computer, tablet, or phone, onto one’s TV. Basically, any television with an HDMI port can magically be turned into a smart TV of sorts. Easy, right? And unlike some of Google’s other releases, this one is surprisingly affordable. No subscription or ongoing fees — just a flat $35 to enjoy Chromecast for as many hours as the device will last.

The Setup

Chromcast can be purchased at any local electronics store or even Amazon. Then all that’s required is to plug in the device, and set up the streaming medium from a website Google automatically displays on the TV. Once in place, users click a box in the top right-hand corner of the screen (the “cast” button), and can start viewing. Remember that YouTube video you wanted to show to an entire room of people? Size is no longer a limitation. Or when ready to view Hulu Plus’s “computer only” content, you now have the upper hand.

Other Perks

  • Users can give their Chromecast a customized name.
  • Though Chromecast is optimized for specific websites (like YouTube), any content can still be shown through tab mirroring.
  • Content is streamed via the cloud, not from the device itself, so users are free to use the computer, tablet, or phone, for other tasks without interrupting their program.
  • Chromecast can be setup for multiple devices at once — use whichever one’s the closest.

This brings us to the next question: How did we ever live without it? Seriously, think of all the online TV, movies, and clips we could have been watching. If Google has anything to say about it, we’ll no longer need cable subscriptions, and rather just a strong Internet connection and a fully charged computer.

Of course, there are a few flaws with the device. For instance, software developments are still being updated, and Chromecast isn’t compatible with older iOS or Windows versions. Plus, videos stream as they appear on the computer. On HDTVs, that means less than crisp quality, but considering all the perks, a slightly grainy picture seems like a small price to pay.

5 Reasons Pinterest is a Better Search Engine than Google

pinterest_badge_redDespite its premise, platform, and overall demographic (crafty women), Pinterest comes out as one of the world’s most accurate search engines. Even better than actual search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sure, it was made as a social media website, and for leisure or entertainment time, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less accurate as a searchable device. Whatever the magic formula, Pinterest’s creators seem to have nailed down the best way to search photos without receiving a plateful of spam.

5. Pinterest is more visually appealing

Hosting large, quality photos, Pinterest gives users an accurate overview of each post. This eye-catching perk shows what each link will hold, as well as providing a short customer-written response, so there’s no need to worry about keyword or phrase stuffing. Every single search query is organic.

4. Its results are more dynamic

No matter the topic, Pinterest shows users an array of results and related topics, where traditional search engines tend to stick within a single comfort zone. For instance, if searching “tech,” Pinterest brings up news articles, products, must-have articles, fabric patterns, etc. In contrast, Google shows a mixture of electronic and college websites. Which option is more helpful?

3. It doesn’t correct our spelling or grammar

Non-traditional spelling is practically a norm now; having search terms automatically “fixed” requires a re-search, taking time and falsely adjusting our saved search features. Pinterest sidesteps this auto adjustment, allowing correct searches to take place on a first-time basis. Users save on time and results, all in one helpful swoop.

2. No ads

No pop ups, banners, or videos that play automatically. It’s searching uninterrupted.

1. There’s no spam

Without paid searches or keyword stuffing put into web pages, searches bring up actual relevant information. Users don’t have to waste time scanning for content that relates to their needs, and clicks won’t be wasted on sites scamming for traffic. With Pinterest, users know they’re gaining relevant, organic searches that actually hold useful information – not paragraphs of filler that reads in circles. No scanning, no pop-up ads, and no spammy content. For a population used to all of the above as the everyday norm, Pinterest’s search engine approach is a truly novel idea.

Google Search: More advertising leaves less room for organic results

Google’s corporate motto is “don’t be evil.” When this was unveiled in 1999 / 2000 (attribution claims vary), it was seen as something of a dig at various large companies and the way they operate. Zooming forward to the present day, I find myself wondering if Google are beginning to lose sight of this ethos and become a little drunk on their own power.

I run a number of blogs. One of them has, over the past few years, become rather successful. Now, I don’t mean “earn a fortune, quit my job” successful, but successful enough to attract advertisers, gain loyal readers running into the thousands, win a couple of small awards, and earn me enough money to make the time I spend on it worthwhile.

So, why am I moaning about Google? Well, it started a few months ago, when I began to notice my unique visitors dropping like a stone. I had a chat with an “industry” friend, and he pointed me in the direction of a very interesting article about how Google is slowly “killing off” organic search.

Google Search
Google Search

More advertising, less search results

According to the article, there’s now less and less space on a typical Google search page dedicated to organic results, and more and more dedicated to revenue-generating Google products. The examples in the article include a search for “auto mechanic” where only 13% of screen real estate on a 13” Macbook Air ended up displaying natural search results. A search for “Italian Food” on an iPhone showed NO natural results whatsoever on the first screen (barring one from Google-owned Zagat) and required a scroll through four pages of information before any truly natural results appeared at all.

So how does this affect independent bloggers? In my case, my blog has been at the top of Google’s results for a number of relevant search terms for several years. Now it has dropped down, typically to fourth or fifth place. So why has this happened?

Well, it’s clearly due to one of the recent algorithm updates, but looking at the sites that are now on top reveals little. While one or two may arguably have more “authority,” some are small commercial companies appearing seemingly at random, which tells me that despite Google’s punishing algorithm updates, some sites are still manipulating their rankings with SEO techniques and are slipping through the net.

After spending years creating good content and building readers, Google moves the goalposts, resulting in far fewer people finding my site.

While I know this sounds like “sour grapes,” I’d be less bitter if I truly believed that all the results that have pushed me from the top deserved to be there. I’d find it easier to accept the situation if some didn’t contain vastly out of date content that (personal bias aside) simply doesn’t deserve to be there.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that increasingly, the only way to ensure people consistently find you on Google is to pay Google. Even if you’re doing well in the organic results right now, the next algorithm change may plunge you into obscurity, especially when Google’s page layouts now mean that even being on the first page of the natural results doesn’t mean anyone will see you without lots of scrolling.

Google built its popularity on being fast, clear and fair. It would be a terrible shame if that “don’t be evil” slogan came back to bite it.

An introduction to developing software for Google Glass

glass development

Now that Google Glass is quickly becoming a mainstream product, have you wondered how you can develop for Glass? Well, you don’t have to wonder anymore because Google has made available the Google Mirror API to help developers build web-based services that interact with Google Glass.

The developer guide gives a detailed explanation of how to develop timeline items, menu items, create subscriptions, enable location data, access to contacts and enable authorization. However, despite the ease of development for Glass, Google has also published developer guidelines to ensure that developers create applications that offer the desired user experience.

Timeline Items

Timeline items or cards, display content on Glass and can either be swiped forwards or backwards to reveal more cards in the past or future. The guideline shows how to insert, attach update, read, and delete timeline cards.

Menu Items

In order to make your services interesting, you need to allow users to interact with timeline cards. This can be done through menu items where users can tell glass to read a card aloud, navigate to a location, share the card contents, or reply to a message. Menu items can populated from a list of built-in items or custom created.

Subscriptions

When a user takes specific timeline actions or changes location, you can subscribe to such notifications. There are different notification types for different events. Some of these notification payloads include Shared timeline item, a reply,  a delete notification, a custom menu item selected, or a location update.

Location

User’s location be requested using the Google Mirror API including their last known location and periodic location updates. The API can also render maps and overlay makers and lines to signify important places and paths.

Contacts

The Glass API can allow users to share your timeline items with other contacts by allow them to tap a share menu item which displays a list of possible contacts to share with. It can also allow users to share timeline items with Glassware where you create a contact that represents Glassware and allow users to share with this contact. This can be declared to limit sharing for only specific cards.

Authorization

All requests to the Google Mirror API must be authorized using OAuth 2.0 credentials. When users load applications for the first time, they are presented with a dialog to grant permission to access their Google Glass account.  This one-time authorization is all that is needed even when your app is being used offline.

Developer Tools

Google has made available developer tools to help you get started with Glass Apps. The Google Mirror API Playground lets you experiment with content display while the Subscription Proxy can be used to subscribe to notifications in a production environment.

Prepare for the upcoming Google Reader shutdown with 5 alternatives

Google ReaderIn an effort to consolidate its services, Google Reader shuts down on July 1, 2013. The rise and growth of Google+ has seen a bunch of shutdowns and we can expect to see more as the company looks to focus more on its key products.

With Google Reader gone, it is time to look for alternatives for subscribing to RSS feeds. Here are five alternatives that should help you get everything – well, nearly everything – you got from Google Reader.

1. Feedly

Feedly, under the project called Normandy, had been preparing for a Google Reader API clone since the shutdown for announced, and you now have an alternative that should help you seamlessly transition from Google Reader to Feedly. The Feedly service is supported on iOS, Android, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. This Feedly blog post shows you how you can make that seamless transition and ensure you do not miss any updates from your favorite blogs now that Google Reader is gone.

2. NetVibes

NetVibes opened a new home for millions of Google Readers recently by offering a dual dashboard-and-reader combo which, unlike other alternatives, is powered by its own real-time RSS engine that is completely independent of Google. NetVibes comes with an ecosystem of over 260,000 apps and feeds, social search, syncing across multiple devices, and works on iOS, Android and desktop browsers.

3. NewsBlur

This is a personal news reader runs on iOS, Android, and on web browsers. It is a free service with premium subscriptions if you want to support growing services and unlock a few restrictions. The service offers four RSS feed views which are Original, Feed, Story, and Text. Original offers readers the original design and typeface of a given site. The Feed view is the plain old RS feed you are used to. The Story view shows individual blog posts one at a time, and the Text view shows the original story’s extracted article text, which may not be 100% perfect.

4. FeedDemon

For Windows users, FeedDemon will continue to offer its services which includes keyword tagging, Feed Watches, the ability to search feeds, and the ability to automatically download audio podcasts.

5. Google Currents

It’s not all bye-bye from Google. Google Currents is another excellent alternative available on iOS and Android devices which turns your blogs into an attractive, shareable and favoritable magazine. It is able to aggregate your content into categories to help you better enjoy your content.

There we have it, 5 Google Reader alternatives that you can use to ensure you are updated on what’s new on your favorite blogs and online destinations.

Meet the new Google Maps

Google-Maps-Preview

If you were at the Google I/O (or weren’t), you are probably aware of the major redesign changes that were launched for Google Maps.  One thing you will quickly notice is the approach that Google has taken to provide a more intuitive interface that takes away the clutter and leaves you with a clean and clear way of exploring neighborhoods and other destinations.

Interestingly, we can also see a future glimpse of where maps may be going. Google has modeled a few cities around the world in 3D letting you enter the third dimension and get a new perspective of the world. This feature is similar to Apple’s “Flyover” function of its own mapping service but Google definitely know how to create buzz for it and deliver a much more intuitive experience.

Improved Search in Maps

Google Maps Screenshot

Of course, the ultimate ability of maps is to be able to search locations and get the exact information you are looking for. Though not quite your Knowledge Graph experience, the new Google Maps takes search a notch higher by letting you get better results when you search for restaurants, hotels, and world attractions. However, that is not the end of it. Google wants a more personalized experience in all of its products that you use, and this includes the new maps. As you use the search feature, Google Maps will be able to learn about your likes, favorites, and destinations, and this information, yes you guessed it, will be used to recommend places and destinations.

Info Cards

Google has added a new feature to help both businesses and you, get the right information to you. When you click on a business, an info card comes up below the search box with the business’ address, directions, web URL, phone number and hours of operation. Rather than having to navigate out of Google Maps to get all this information, you now have everything you need inside the maps interface. Again, the more you use maps to search for businesses, the better the maps become at recommending places and venues with the option of writing reviews.

Images

Google seems to value the use of images in most of its products and Google Maps is one of these tools where images really shine and give you a whole new perspective in search. At the bottom of any location you search, you will see a scrolling menu of images that you can click through to enjoy a photo tour. These images are pulled from Google+, Picasa, and Android phones from owners. Google also contributes its own sets of photos. Google seems to be particularly interested in user-generated photos where it is able to pull up several photos of the same building but during different times of the year and through the eyes of different photographers to give you an amazing photo tour.

Directions in Maps

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We all love to get driving directions when looking at maps. But how about directions when using different transportation options such as public transit, walking, biking or flying? Google now brings this ability to the new Google Maps allowing you to compare the different directions and see which is the quickest and readily available.

Clearly, what Google is doing with maps is very similar to what it has done with search results – personalize our experiences. When you click on search, you are now presented with localized and highly personalized results rather than from results across the globe. Google Maps seem to be taking the same direction.

You can try out the new Maps with the following link: http://maps.google.com/help/maps/helloworld/desktop/preview/

A look at Gmail’s new inbox with automatic email sorting

Gmail LogoI recently enabled the New Gmail inbox, and I have to say that this new update has me scratching my head.

(To experience the new Gmail Inbox, you have to simply click on the gear icon in your top right window just above the chat and choose “Configure Inbox.” From here, you can choose from the variety of tabs that Google has given to you.)

I understand that Google is known for frequently updating its products, regardless of whether or not an update is really necessary. It has become something of a corporate culture, and perhaps serves to show people that they really are putting the work in to improve their products.

However, was this recent update just a minor adjustment or a useful update to how you use Gmail?

Introducing the new Gmail Inbox with categories

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The way that the new Inbox is laid out is that instead of one Inbox that has the priority tags, there are multiple tabs on the top of your window. They are similar to tabs in a browser, and by clicking each one you access a different view of your inbox. The default ones that are selected are Primary, Social, and Promotions. If you would like, you also have the options to add Updates and Forums to your tabs as well.

Here are how Google defines each option:

  • Primary – Person-to-person conversations and messages that don’t appear in other tabs.
  • Social – Messages from social networks, media-sharing sites, online dating services, and other social websites.
  • Promotions – Deals, offers, and other marketing emails.
  • Updates – Personal, auto-generated emails including confirmations, receipts, bills and statements.
  • Forums – Messages from online groups, discussion boards, and mailing lists.

After you have chosen your tabs, you will notice that your email becomes all jumbled. Gmail automatically goes through all of your emails and places things where they “belong.” For example, anything that is an email generated from a forum comment will go into Forums, any recent email about a great deal will go in Promotions, etc. The idea here is that when you want to look for social emails, you go to social. When you want your updates such as bills and receipts then you go to Updates. I like the idea, and automatic sorting really makes using it literally effortless.

So what’s wrong with the new layout?

For me, I was immediately confused and a bit shocked to see that the “primary” option is exactly as it states. It is for emails that haven’t shown up in other tabs. What this meant took me a moment to process because I was so surprised and assumed it couldn’t be true. What this means is that there is no longer a unified inbox where you can go and just see ALL your email in one date sorted list. So if you don’t see it in primary, go to social. If it isn’t in there, try promotions, etc. This was immediately a deal breaker for me because this completely makes you rely on the automation process which would have to be flawless.

Is Google good enough to sort it out?

The answer to this is yes and no. Fortunately, Google is great at recognizing content in your emails (yes, that is creepy), but the built-in safety is that it will actually learn from you as you move your emails around. So for example, if you get an update in your Updates tab that you would prefer to be in your Social tab, you can simply drag them email onto the Social tab and Gmail will ask you if you would always like to do that for this sender. If you choose yes, then that senders email will go into the tab you chose.

The biggest problem I see with this is that it is essentially creating “rules” much like you would in Outlook or Apple mail. Yes they can be powerful, but not when they are the only choice across your whole email system. The fact is that a machine, although they have made incredible leaps and bounds, is not yet ready to determine exactly where I want my emails. Granted, the existence of one unified inbox that just shows you everything would be a great safety net that would make this whole experience much easier in my opinion.

Limited categorization options

I think the confusion and the difficulty now is that you can’t create your own tabs, and stuffing your email into these pre-created tabs is… well, hard. I immediately ran into questions that I just didn’t want to answer! Isn’t this forum response from a local club a social event? Is this marketing email also the address that sends me blog updates that I actually like to read? Is my second or third communication with a doctor, job, etc. considered an update or just in primary? They are technically updates to a situation right? All in all, it was just too confusing with too many questions that to be honest, I didn’t care to answer.

I don’t get seven thousand emails a day, a nice list of my emails with the occasional folder sorting would be fine for me. I know that for many people, that may not be the case.

New mobile apps

iOS appAnother huge problem I have with this system is the mobile Gmail app. Although I don’t have access to the Android version, the iOS version basically works so that you see each tab and have to tap into the side menu to switch between your tabs. That is two taps to switch between tabs, and I can see it being a huge pain to look through when you aren’t sure exactly where an email went. If the default was to see all your messages, then look at them in the tabs when you wanted, I would be ok with that. You would have a safe ground in some way.

Will it get better?

I have complete faith that Google will improve this system, and even just the added ability to create your own tabs will do wonders. Whether they put in one inbox that shows you everything, I’m not sure, but without it I won’t be using the new inbox. Google also has a reputation for quickly axing a change they made, and it just all of a sudden disappearing from your options. Perhaps this new tab system will go that way!

I think what it comes down to is: how complicated does your inbox need to be? For some people, simpler and straight forward is the way to go, and I think this new update pushes into complicated territory. For power users that love to organize, it may be a nice change, but for others it is a head scratching nuisance.

Google Now for iOS: A real reason to use location services

Google Now HomeI am a tech geek. I love technology, I constantly download the latest apps, I do my very best to have hands on experiences with the newest devices, and I am generally constantly reading about new advancements.

That being said, Google Now has completely blown me away.

Google Now: The future is here.

Coming from Apple’s iOS as my primary platform, I have been salivating over Google Now via YouTube videos and tech articles for a long time now. I initially stumbled on it while looking at comparison videos between Siri and Samsung’s S Voice. In the rabbit hole that is YouTube, I eventually ended up watching plenty of videos comparing Google Now to S Voice and Siri, and Google Now handily beat them both every time.

Needless to say, this bit of software was something I was excited about, but honestly was not fully confident that it would make it to iOS. However, as is the trend with Google, they always feel releasing their incredible software on iOS is more beneficial for them than it is detrimental for their Android platform. Lucky for iOS users!

Google Now is basically nested within the Google Search App which can be downloaded from the App Store.

First Impressions

I downloaded the app on April 29th, the day that it was released, and I was blown away right off of the bat. Once I installed it, I went into the Google Search app, and dragged the Google Now interface from the bottom into full view. I was curious what type of “Cards” I would be seeing since it was my first time on the app.

Important note about setting up Google Now

To use Google Now,  it is highly recommended to turn on your Location Services. Without that, Google Now literally does not function. It will just sit there and tell you there are no location services, and show you nothing else. Also, if you have a Gmail account, logging into it will greatly enhance your experience. As far as I can tell, virtually everything is taken from your Google relationship, and generally a Gmail account is the anchor point for that relationship.

2013-05-01 11.14.01Once I had my location services enabled and logged in with my Gmail, I scrolled through my cards. The first thing I noticed were two cards that had the information of two packages that I had ordered from Amazon. I immediately tapped on one, and it showed me all the information about when the order was made, who was shipping it, and gave me a button to “Track Package.” This was the first feature that truly surprised me because it required Google to sort through my email, understand the email from Amazon, take the data and reorganize it for the card, and present it to me with a link that goes directly to the USPS tracking site. That is just plain intelligent, and it’s the type of tech I have been waiting for for a long time!

To be fair, the tracking on the package was rather basic, and didn’t go to the USPS site the first times that I used it. It was still able to tell me the latest status and the delivery day, but wasn’t showing me step by step statuses as the package made its way to my house. However, I noticed that today, when I track a few additional packages that I recently ordered, the “Track Package” button goes directly to the USPS website, and shows me the exact up-to-date status which is even better than using the Amazon app to track things.

Location Awareness and Navigating

I have to admit, this is the category that excited me the most when I looked at all the Google Now videos. Sure, it is incredibly fast at understanding a question and giving you data immediately, but what was being shown for built-in navigation seemed like true predictive and future technology. In these YouTube videos I watched, they showed how Google Now would alert you when to leave for work in the morning based on the traffic situation, basically predicting what time you needed to be at work and alerting you if traffic was jeopardizing that. Since Google Maps navigation has always been the most reliable app on my phone, I was excited by this type of tight integration. So how did it work?

Once I set my Home location in Google Maps, the Google Now integration was absolutely fantastic. However, it relies heavily on having a place to go. While that might sound obvious, what I mean is that this data needs to be in a form Google Now recognizes. For my appointments over the last few days, I had to add them to my Google Calendar (including location)and then it would sync to Google Now.

The result was quite impressive. For example, I put in a doctor’s appointment for the next morning, and when I woke up and went into Google Now, the top card was how long it would take me to get there and a small map highlighting the traffic situation, and of course a button that links to immediate navigating in Google Maps. Pretty cool. Even more, when I was finished with an appointment (or out anywhere for that matter), it would always have a card suggesting the traffic back home. A few times, this made it seem like it was reading my mind, as I was actually heading home.

Again, this is all understandable, and a natural progression of technology, but here is what really surprised and excited me: I was at a doctor’s appointment, and it was my only appointment in my calendar for the day. Naturally, Google Now was suggesting Home as the next destination and that was all. However, I needed to get some blood drawn for a test my doctor wanted, so I started using Google Search to find lab locations around the area, identify their operating hours and perhaps make an appointment. As I was walking out of the doctor’s office, I casually glanced at Google Now to see if there were any interesting new articles it thought was relevant to me, and the top card was the traffic and time estimate to the lab I looked at! Talk about predictive technology.

Location based results that I have experienced:

  • Restaurants nearby that have Zagat ratings attached
  • The weather and forecast wherever I am
  • Traffic to my next destination (if it’s in the calendar), or back home

Some cool location features I have yet to test:

  • When traveling, it will display a translator for you based on the country you are in
  • It will show you the current time zone you are in, and occasionally flash back to your home time zone so you see the time there
  • Depending on the country you are in, it will offer up the current currency exchange in that area
  • It will suggest local venues and shows going on, including movies

Sports and News CardExperience with Google Search Integration

As the magical addition of my Lab location points out, Google Now is heavily integrated into Google Search. Here are some things I have searched for that Google now later assisted with:

  • Locations I have searched for (like the lab), especially when I am near them
  • Sports teams I have searched for future schedules or past scores (they start appearing in cards with results)
  • News articles featuring the type of tech articles I have been searching for and reading (not many, but they were on target)
  • Restaurants nearby

Aside from these types of integration, the Siri-like feature of being able to search with your voice is just plain spot on. Not only does it show you what you said in text so you can visually confirm the search, it does so as you type. The second you say a word, it is on the screen, and you can see it correct itself by the context of your sentence if it got a word wrong. The result is a flawless voice translation that always has gotten it right for me, and leads to a fast and easy search. It generally can find an answer to just about anything, and is way better than Siri (and much faster).

Is this an invasion of privacy?

I am very sure there will be two camps regarding the privacy issue, one saying that of course it isn’t, and one saying Google is an evil corporation and is trying to sell your soul for money. I have always been a part of the former, but with this increased integration, I can really understand the latter. Much of the impressive things Google Now has done has honestly been absolutely creepy. It seems to know what is going on in my life, before I even know I am looking for it. However, I suppose that I am technologically minded enough to find these advances awesome and necessary, and the sharing your information part of it is just a necessary evil for large jumps in life quality.

iOS Drawbacks

One of the largest differences between iOS Google Now and Android Google Now is simply the level of phone integration that you can attain. For example, when you tap on “Get Directions” on the traffic part of iOS Google Now, it will open Google Maps (thank god it’s not locked to Apple Maps for some silly reason). However, in the Android version, you also have choices like notify the person you are meeting that you will be a few minutes late.

Additionally, and one of the absolute worst limitations for iOS is that push notifications are not allowed. This severely limits the usability of the app because you must have the app open to get the benefits. For Android, your phone will alert you that it is time to leave for work (or whatever appointment) based on the traffic and the time. For iOS, it knows you have to leave, but it can’t say anything to you. It’s up to you to notice the time, and check the app for the traffic update. That is a huge downside, but given all the wonderful other features of the app, I found that I am in it regularly enough to notice things before it alerts me.

Final Thoughts

Google Now is still young on iOS, but it is clearly a winning product. Of all the apps to have ever come out on iOS (not counting Google Maps return to iOS), this is hands down the one that I am most excited about. True predictive technology is something that tech companies have been working on for ages, but nobody has been able to really nail. Google seems extraordinarily close, and if they can develop this to know virtually everything I want to do before I do it, then all the other companies will be scrambling as their market share absolutely tanks.

The best part is that I don’t think any other company really can do it the way that Google can, because they don’t have all these integrated services like Gmail that are constantly pulling in information from every aspect of your life. Time will tell if this is truly the future, but I am very certain that this is a large step in the right direction.