Siri was the big thing Apple used to sell iPhone 4S. However, Apple has never really been adept at providing services that depend on the collection, management, and sorting of data. As such, Siri — while entertaining, at times — has flopped in the eyes of many. Google, on the flip side, is the king of data. So when Google announced Google Now on Android starting in Jelly Bean (Android 4.1), many people expected it to spank Siri. As it turns out, it has.
Since the announcement, and release, of Google Now this summer, it has received high praise by critics and fanboys alike, such as the 47 question demonstration we saw in July. Now Google Now has been given the “Innovation of the Year” award by Popular Science magazine, calling it “the first virtual assistant that truly anticipates your needs”:
It seems innocent at first: Fire up the search app on a new Android phone, and the interface asks if you’d like to activate Google Now. “Sure,” you think, “Google already has my calendar, location, and contacts; what’s one more thing?” Here’s what: Google Now draws a distinct technological line. On the side you’re on now, you tell your devices what you want to do. On the far side, the devices do the telling. Google Now is waiting for you over there. It’s the first virtual assistant that truly anticipates your needs. All you have to do is opt in.
Google Now runs in the background of the latest Android operating system (Jelly Bean 4.1) and quietly keeps track of searches, calendar events, locations, and travel patterns. It then synthesizes all that info and alerts you—either through notifications in the menu bar or cards on the search screen—of transit alerts for your commute, box scores for your favorite sports team, nearby watering holes, and more. You can assume it will someday suggest a lot more.
At the same time Popular Science took a stab at Siri, labeling it as “outdated in comparison”:
Voice interfaces like Siri seem outdated by comparison. With Google Now, you don’t pull the phone out when an idea occurs to you. You pull it out when an idea occurs to it.
Well then. If you really want a virtual assistant, you may want to ditch that iPhone for an Android. (Yes, Google provides Google Voice Search for iOS that has some Google Now features, but it isn’t close to being the same.) And I should start using Google Now on my Nexus.