After a promo video let the cat out of the bag last month, Google is making it official: with an update to the Google Search application, Google Now is available on iOS. Compatible with both the iPhone and iPad, the update brings almost all of Google's information cards across from Android. The look and feel of the app is virtually identical on both platforms, a testament to Google's newfound ability to make well-designed apps on iOS. The main differences between Android and iOS are few, mainly in that iOS can display fewer different kinds of cards. "The types of Google Now cards available are largely the same on both platforms," says Baris Gultekin, Director of Product Management for Google Now.
On iOS, the Google Search app can't be launched with a system-wide shortcut (unless you are a jailbreaker) and it can't do the same kind of background sync that Now can do on Android. However, Google tells us that it will support the iOS background location feature, so that at least it won't need to spend as long hunting for your position when you open up the Search app. It also won't use iOS' notification system to push high-priority Now alerts as you can do on Android. 22 of the 29 card types available on Android are making their way to iOS, and the few holdouts include airline boarding passes, Fandango, and local events. Google Now will be able to display your next available appointment, but it will only pull that information from your Google Calendar, not the local calendar.
Android, of course, allows Google Now to be accessed with a swipe-up or long-press of a button on some phones, but it's worth pointing out that it might actually be available on fewer devices than on iOS thanks to minimum OS requirements.
Apple's hardware, Google's cloud services
Google has long said that it wants to make its services available on as many platforms as possible, but recent moves indicate that, when it comes to mobile, those platforms mainly include iOS and Android. It's notable that Google isn't holding back some of its best service features as Android exclusives, but Gultekin points out that Google still believes that Android offers a superior feature set for its products: "As with many Google products, Android (and Nexus devices) always give you the best Google experience, but we aim to make our services available to as many people as possible. Android offers more integration opportunities than iOS." Even so, the number and quality of Google's apps on iOS mean that heavy Google services users don't have as much incentive as they once did to stick with an Android device.
The updated Google Search app with Google Now is available in the App Store now.