How to Improve Google Now
We are seeing the rise of voice in mobile devices. Google Now, Siri, S-Voice... None of them are perfect yet, but they are getting better. Google recently released an update to Google Now, bringing welcome changes to Google Now. But Siri still has an edge in some areas. I'd like to explore some areas where Google Now could take some inspiration from Siri. Note: I use both on a daily basis, so I know the merits of both.
One of the biggest problems with Google Now is that it doesn't feel like a Google product as much as Siri does. Siri has a personality, and Easter eggs, and you can get witty responses from her. She feels more fun, more like an assistant. She can be asked questions more naturally, and she seems less cold and robotic.
Google Now, on the other hand, is square, sharp, and cold. All it does is show you information. It's so bland compared to it's competitor, Siri. Just cold, hard data. Google is known for having great search, but also for fun doodles, pet projects, Andy the Android, fun Easter eggs, and a cute dessert naming scheme.
Others using Google Now in my social circle and I believe Google should give Google Now a personality, a name, something to make it more fun and more personal.
Now don't get me wrong, showing us relevant data is great, but we want our phones to be an assistant. With Google Now being so automatic, and knowing so much about you, I think it is reasonable to expect it to be a good assistant. It knows your schedule, the things you like to search, and a lot of the things you care about. Why can't it have a conversation with you like your friend?
Google Now needs to get connected with your social circles. It needs to be able to identify contacts better, like Mom, Dad, and less common names, that you can tell it how to pronounce. It needs to be able to plug in to your social media profiles. One of the greatest things about Siri for me is that she can tweet something for me on a whim, or post something to Facebook in a matter of seconds. She knows who I want to text when I say "tell mom I'll be there soon". My family and friends are something I care about deeply, and Siri is better at knowing what I want when it comes to interacting with them. Phones are communication devices, and Google Now doesn't help you communicate much better than if it wasn't there.
Google Now also needs to be simplified. I've tried explaining Google Now to people, and it's not easy. "Google Now is sorta like Siri except you can't converse with it but it puts information on cards for you automatically and searches things really well." It just doesn't make as much sense as asking a question, getting a response, and moving on from that point in the conversation. The cards are confusing, show up seemingly randomly, and seem like they just got thrown wherever because the order never makes sense. Settings for which cards show up, when they show up, and what they show on them are almost hidden, and are extremely confusing. Google Now needs to be more intuitive for the average user so that it makes the average user want to use it more, which brings me to my next point.
What is the incentive for Google adding and changing these features? For one, it makes Google Now a more marketable feature, like Siri. This pushes more Android phones, and gets more valuable data for Google.
Google knows you pretty well (or at least me), and I feel like this could be a great way to leverage ads into your phone. Google Now's personality could be your trusted friend, telling you what it thinks you should do, buy, or where you should go.
But the biggest thing of all, is that if you give it a personality, making it more intuitive, and making it fit into people's social lifestyles, people will spend more time pouring valuable information into it. The more information Google has about its users, the more information it can sell to advertisers. Its a way to monetize Android even further, and with the intuitiveness of speech and conversation, people will just put mounds of information into it.
A huge step in making Google Now better would be adding it to all Android devices in existence right now. It is updated with the Google Search app on my Nexus, making it easy to assume that adding Google Now to any Android phone shouldn't be too hard. I'm not quite sure if it's as easy as updating the Google Search widget, but allowing the now-deprecated search key as the gateway to Google Now on older devices, it shouldn't be too hard. I've been able to assign apps to the holding down of the search key on old devices, and using it to open the Google Search app and allowing it to use the right APIs to hook into text messages and display notifications about the weather and such in the notification shade. It seems like it would be fairly easy to implement. Google would benefit exponentially from this because it gives them millions of new pieces of data.This could really be a game changer.
Some little things now. Google Now needs to be able to hook into more sports. I don't really care about the NFL. I want some college football results, like Siri gives me. And please, Google, improve the look of the sports card. I also want to know more about movies, music, and TV shows. Give me nice ratings and summaries on a non-default search page. I wanna see it match the Google Now design aesthetic. Allow texting and other offline activities to be able to be conducted offline, like how the voice keyboard is now able to be used sans-internet connection.
Those are my ideas for improving Google Now, using some of the benefits and features of Siri as inspiration. I'd love to hear what you guys think, and would also like to apologize for the lack of cohesion and clarity in some parts. It was a long day, but I wanted to do this while I was still thinking about it, so its almost surely lacking a little bit in some areas. I'll be trying to answer any questions about parts you found confusing, and will of course try to respond to ideas from other users as a way to explore more ways that Google Now could be improved.