Google Now on iOS is a fantastic move

April 29, 2013
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As Android users, we’re pretty spoiled. Android has a whole lot to offer, and we certainly like to point fingers at our iOS friends as being left behind a bit. No widgets, no custom ROM’s… heck, not even NFC! Sometimes we wonder why they even like their iStuff.

Perhaps the most glaring issue is the lack of many Google services on iOS. Sure, the other stuff is cool, but let’s be honest in that Google is what makes the mobile world go ‘round. Those iOS users compromise a giant chunk of the mobile market, so it has always been curious that more Google services weren’t available to them.

Then again, Apple has always been diligent about forging their own path. There was Apple Maps, which was just… well, you know. That led the way for an apology, a firing, and Google Maps to make a triumphant comeback. With 10 million downloads the first weekend it was back in the App Store, a Google Maps victory must have hit close to home in Cupertino.

There could be a number of issues at play, here. It could be the leadership change from Jobs to Cook, and a softening on the relationship Apple shared with Google. It may also be a gut-check realization that Google products are just better than anything Apple can make right now. A lot of time and effort goes into an app, or service, and Apple simply doesn’t have that type of focus. They’re more hardware-centric, whereas Google butters its bread on the other side.

Many comparisons have been done between Siri and Google Now, with Google Now edging out its iOS competitor each time.

There is no shame in admitting a competitor simply has a better product, or can do what you cannot. Apple seems to be realizing this more and more, which shows rare (and welcome) humility. Today, Google Now becomes available for iOS. Though not the full spectrum of awesome, it is a concession by Apple that Google is to search as it was to their maps service: just plain better.

Those iOS users won’t get the full functionality of Google Now, as it’s not exactly as we enjoy it on Android devices. Certain features just aren’t available, and the service must be launched inside of the Google Search app, rather than from the home screen. Part of that is iOS devices having a different interface and layout, and part of that is Apple playing it safe. As Google Now becomes available on iOS, even in a limited capacity, it’s another step in the right direction.

Even though Google has to continually play slow-pitch softball to iOS users, at least they’re in the game. We can point fingers at Apple for being closed-off and too cautious all we want, but they have a pretty significant market share, and that means happy users. More people using the Google services we’ve grown to rely on is a wonderful thing, as it deepens their involvement with the mothership. As that relationship grows, two things may happen… both great for Google.

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The iOS user becomes a Google fan

Apple fans are loyal to the brand. We should respect that, but understand that they also haven’t seen all the goodness Google has to offer. Maps is a no-brainer, but Google Now has much more intrinsic value. Those who have it, and use it… love it. Ask it questions, and get the results you’re looking for.

Siri may be able to give you snappy responses to silly questions, just as Bing will give you cute pics when compared to Google for desktop search, but results are what people care about.

That, my friends, is where the subversive brilliance lies in getting Google Now onto iOS. Many comparisons have been done between Siri and Google Now, with Google Now edging out its iOS competitor each time. Siri may be able to give you snappy responses to silly questions, just as Bing will give you cute pics when compared to Google for desktop search, but results are what people care about. Google Now has that battle handily won, and should iOS users compare the two… they might just be pleasantly surprised with Google Now.

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The iOS user becomes an Android fan

Limited functionality sounds like a pain in the ass, but it could be good for Android. Mobile devices are, essentially, cloud computing devices. If you’re looking for the best suite of cloud computing solutions, Google/Android has you covered. Everything from Drive to Maps are meant to operate in the cloud, and do so famously. They sync well across devices, and across platforms. Search for a destination in Google Maps, and directions show up in Google Now.

If an iOS user gets a glimpse of that with Google Now, it’s reasonable to think they’d be interested in Android. The more those iOS fans use Google services, the more they become enamored with the functionality. They’ll know what they see on their iPhones and iPads is a shell of what is really on offer. As much as we like to poke fun at them, iOS users aren’t stupid… they’ll see what’s going on.

Using Google Now makes life much easier, which is the real goal. Android takes the best advantage of that service, so why not switch? I’m not advocating that Google Now will, in itself, become a reason for iOS users to jump ship, but it’s a door opening in front of them. It has the ability to get them interested in what else Google and Android have on offer, and just how well it all works together. Their opinions of Android may have been forged in a bygone era of cupcake and gingerbread… and Google Now will show them just how much little brother has grown up.

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Conclusion

Google Now has the ability to do what the Chrome Browser has done, and that’s provide a cross-platform solution… without a platform. Google Now is a search function, not an Android service. It may be a whole lot better on Android, but not exclusive to the platform. As iOS users start to see that, they’ll also start to understand the value of what Google is doing.

Even if those iOS users never switch to Android, they’ve at least become Google users… and hopefully fans. This is good for the bottom line, as search is what it all boils down to at Google. The one thing we talk about the least is the most important for them, and Google Now represents a huge shift to how that’s accomplished. Improved search results, as well as increased use, translates to ad revenue… which is how all of our beloved Google services remain free.

As search enters the realm of contextual data (data which is fed to you rather than a traditional search for it), Google is at the forefront. Google Now, even in its limited capacity on iOS, is far and away the best solution for accomplishing this. Even though Google may not need iOS, those users may need Google moving forward… more than they know.

 

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