Google Now Could Steal Siri's Voice on iOS
The battle between Google and Apple just got personal -- as in personal digital assistants like Siri and Google Now. The latter became available Monday for iOS users. The functionality is a little different than Google Now's Android experience, but it still basically pulls relevant user information and notifications -- travel, stocks, email, etc. -- for easy display on iPads and iPhones. Whether it will make iOS users forget Siri remains to be seen.
Apr 30, 2013 5:00 AM PT
In yet another challenge to Apple on the mobile front, Google has made its Google Now intelligent personal assistant available for iOS devices.
Google Now is part of the Google Search application. It recognizes repeated actions that a consumer performs on a device to learn about usage patterns. The app displays more relevant information as cards that can be swiped on and off the screen.
The feature's debut on iOS could pose a threat to Apple's Siri digital assistant because Google Now seems to offer more functionality.
"Google Now takes a search-focused speech recognition program and shifts it towards a more digital assistant-style use case," Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI Research, told MacNewsWorld. "Siri was designed to be a digital assistant from the ground up and often fails on some basic questions that are outside of its focused design."
On the other hand, "Apple users are pretty loyal to Apple and thus aren't all that fond of Google," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
Google did not respond to our request for further details.
Google Now on iOS
Google Now displays information pulled from the user's Gmail account. That includes flight information, package tracking, hotel and restaurant reservations, and financial market news. This information is served up in cards with labels that include Flights, Hotels, Events, Movies, Stocks and News.
Google Now leverages Knowledge Graph, a semantic search database.
The look and feel of the app is almost identical on both Android and iOS, according to published reports. However, iOS displays fewer cards, the app can't be launched on iOS with a systemwide shortcut, and it can't do the same kind of background sync on iOS that it can on Android.
Google Now also won't use iOS's notification system to push high-priority Now alerts. The app does that for the Android operating system.
Google Now for iOS is placed at the bottom of the screen, and users need to swipe up to see the cards.
With Google Now, "More information is used to predict what the user really wants to know about," ABI's Morgan said. "Additionally, it appears that the Google speech recognition is demonstrating faster response and higher accuracy than Siri."
However, the full extent of Google Now's capabilities "will likely always be limited on iOS," he added. For example, it's possible to ask Google Now on an Android device to give directions to a specific location and have the response pushed to turn-by-turn navigation from Google Maps.
Now You See It, Now You Don't
The appearance of Google Now for iOS should come as no surprise. A promotional video leaked on the Web in March. Also, Google chairman Eric Schmidt reportedly hinted during an interview on his visit to India in March that the app might have been submitted to Apple for review, although both companies later issued denials.
Offering Google Now on iOS "won't make Apple any happier with Google," Enderle told MacNewsWorld.
The advent of Google Now on iOS "does provide an opportunity for Google to steal users and mine them for ad revenue. Once used to a Google service, Apple users could be slowly weaned to migrate to a Google platform phone."
This is not a certainty because "Google has never shown the patience or tenacity to pull something like this off," Enderle said. However, "there are staff changes all the time and Google could be serious this time."
As iOS may limit the ability of Google Now to set appointments and start up navigation applications, "Now's digital assistant capabilities are rather limited on iOS devices," ABI's Morgan said.
Still, "Apple under Jobs could lock out vendors, under [Tim] Cook they haven't been as heavy handed," Enderle contended. "So they can but I doubt they will."
Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.