Siri vs Google Now

Which Personal Assistant Is Best?


Haven't heard of Google Now in a while?  Google has phased out the terminology, preferring to call the service the "Google Feed" of "Google Cards", but the features are still alive and well.   And while it might be tied into Android devices tighter, you can get it on the iPad and iPhone via the Google search app.   But is it better than Siri?

Google Now Is a Proactive Assistant

Google has taken a different approach to the personal assistant. Already armed with Google voice search, a feature within the Google Search app, Google Now doesn't concentrate on fetching information on command. Rather, it attempts to anticipate your needs and bring up information before you ask for it.

In the morning, Google Now will display the traffic for your commute to work. It may also show you local news and sports scores for your favorite teams.  The Google Search app does this through "cards" that are displayed below the Google search bar.  

However, to get everything working, you need to have location services turned on for the iPad, allow Google Search to use those location services and have web history turned on at Google.  By default, Google keeps track of your web history.  This information is used to predict your behavior and pull up more relevant "cards".  If you have turned off web history tracking, Google Now will have a harder time predicting the information you need.

Google Now is also dependent on using Google's app ecosystem.  For example, If you aren't using Calendar, it won't know what events you have planned for that day.   In this regard, it is no different than Siri: you get the most bang for your buck by staying in the ecosystem.

Siri is a Reactive Assistant 

Siri and Google Now have a lot of features in common, such as displaying a list of nearby restaurants or displaying sports scores. But where Siri really makes its mark is in doing things for you, such as setting up a new calendar event or creating a reminder for the future. Siri is also able to place calls, launch apps and play music. And if you are really into social networking, Siri can make updates to Twitter or Facebook.

One great thing about Siri is that it is always a button press away. Even if you are in another app, you can simply hold down the Home  Button and Siri will pop up. This is great if you need to check out how your favorite team is doing but don't want to quit what you are doing.

For the most part, Siri is a reactive assistant.  This means she won't try to predict your needs.  Instead, she'll wait for you to tell her what you want.   However, Apple has put in a few predictive features over the years.  If you go to a specific spot at a certain time on a regular basis such as to work in the morning, she'll show you the traffic.  She'll do the same If you have an event on your calendar or simply an invitation sent to you in mail.  

Siri vs Google Now: And the Winner Is...


The real winner is tied to which ecosystem you use the most.  If you are Google Everything from calendar services to Docs to Gmail, Google Now is more useful.  Unfortunately, Google has intentionally limited how tied into the system the feature is on the iPad and iPhone.  For example, you cannot install the Google app as a widget in notifications, so you'll have to open the app to read your Google Cards.  

On the other hand, Siri works great if you use a lot of Apple apps.  And even if you use Google or some other source for many of your tasks, Siri is a great add-on feature.  While you may keep your schedule somewhere else, leaving yourself quick reminders with Siri is still quite handy.  

There's really no reason why you can't simply use both.