Google Now and E-ink backscreens- a new home for Android's most exciting feature?
The Yota phone is a recent release from a Russian company that I would have totally ignored, except for one thing... The back of the phone is an E-ink display.
Which got me to thinking... every-time I have to unlock my phone to get into Google Now, I find myself wishing there were an easier way. A way to literally have all the information that is important to me available at a glance, so I don't really have to turn on the phone unless I need more details. And I think a secondary screen, either on the back of the phone, or on a flip cover over the front screen, or indeed on a wristwatch like the Pebble, is the perfect place to place Google Now.
In many ways, Now is perpendicular to the rest of the Android OS. Its job isn't to do something the OS cannot, but to do those things without you asking, and aggregating it and presenting it to you exactly when and where you need it.
And the natural physical end point of that logic is that the data should be presented without me having to navigate the OS at all. After all, why should I unlock my phone and swipe up (or, shudder, long press the home key) to bring up my boarding pass that Now has pulled up because it knows I have a flight and I'm near the boarding gate? That's a waste of my battery, and its clumsy when I'm in line holding bags.
Similarly, is there any point to me having to turn on my phone to see that its time for me to stop talking with my friend at the cafe and take the bus to be on time for an important meeting? Isn't it much better if the notification light blinks, and the low power E-ink display already has the relevant info displayed?
Same with the weather, or the latest sports scores, or the nearest cafe that I like to visit. I love that my phone can think of these things before I ask. I just need it to show these things to me right away as well.
Now, if I want deeper data, like transit directions for my next meeting, then I need to turn on my phone. All I have to do is touch a button on the Now Card on the E-ink display, and my phone unlocks and jumps straight to the relevant app.
It seems to me that any kind of second screen is a great gift to Google Now. Its an excellent way for Now to expand its functionality, without necessarily changing much of the core OS. Now will eventually grow enough that my phone's processor is going to be always on, figuring out stuff from all kinds of data that its being fed. All we need is a way for all this to be presented readily with low power consumption.