Proactive help; Shows relevant info based on location; Built into Android devices running Jelly Bean
Could not update social network status; Had trouble with contextual searches
Integrated into Android devices, Google Now's personal assistant can provide proactive help based on where you are and learns from your searches.
Google has improved its voice search tremendously, and the showpiece for the technology is Google Now. This proactive assistant now understands more about where you are and pops up with info you need at the right time. But just because it's built into the latest Android smartphones, does that mean you should use it?
The interface is clean, white and easy to use. Cards pop up on the screen, and to speak to the app, you just click the microphone or say "OK Google."
We're not a big fan of the robotic voice Google uses. It sounds stern, like the voice used in some European sports sedans. We felt a bit scolded at times.
When we tested the voice commands in Google Now, we ran into a few problems. As much as Google touts its natural language search capabilities, the app did not understand the phrase "find a cheap flight to Detroit" too well. We did see search results from TripAdvisor.com, but the Sherpa app did a better job of showing actual flight info.
However, Google Now does track flights and will show reminders if you have one scheduled (by reading a confirmation sent to Gmail). It was also more proactive than other personal assistant apps when showing daily reminders about upcoming meetings.
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Google Now also had trouble identifying a contact named Jamie when we wanted text by voice. When we tried to post a Facebook status, the app showed Facebook in search results. However, you can post to Google+ using just your voice, something that neither Sherpa nor Speaktoit could do.
When we said "I want Chinese food," Google Now merely performed a Google search, whereas Sherpa opened up Google Maps, showing local eateries.
We also asked "what's the Yankees score," and Google Now showed the score of the game in progress, complete with a box score that was as detailed and cleaner-looking than Sherpa. The question "When's their next game?" brought up the time and date of the next contest.
When queried about the local weather and then "what about Chicago?" Google Now correctly pulled up both forecasts.