Rumours have been swirling that Google Now (the Big G's super-useful personal assistant application) would be coming to the search page on Google.com, but surprise! Our friends on iOS are getting the love first. Starting today, Google Now will be rolled into the Google Search app for iPhone and iPad.
Google Now, for those not familiar, is a very slick app that debuted in Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) last June. Its main selling point is that it gives you the information you want before you even ask for it. It's not perfect, but it's come a long way since launch, and it's pretty excellent. It can tell you when you need to leave for your next appointment, and give you directions for getting there. It can automatically track everything from your FedEx packages to your favourite sports teams in real time. The information shows up on little cards (and in notifications, if you so desire), which are easy to read and simple to dismiss. You decide how much or how little of your personal information you give it access to, but of course the more access you give it, the more it can do.
Google Now is now a part of the Google Search app for iOS. You just download the app (or app update if you already have it), and log in to your Google account. Then you can start tweaking it to your heart's content. While it will have almost all of the same functionality as the Android version, there will be a few things missing at launch: it can't yet manage your boarding passes, events, concerts, research topics, nearby events, and a couple of other things, but those will likely be added soon. In the meantime, everything else is just as you'd find it in Jelly Bean. At the same time, it won't be quite as integrated an experience as it is on Android. On Android, Now runs constantly in the background, and is never more than a tap away. For iOS, it'll likely be sandboxed into Google Search, and won't be quite as easy to access. Still, though! Better to have it slightly hamstrung than not to have it at all.
You might think that Google would want to save some special sauce for its Android users, but ultimately Google sells Google, not Android. And while Google Now gives you lots of useful information, it also gives Google access to all kinds of geolocation and personal preference data that will make it easier to serve you highly relevant ads across every platform. The move also fits right in with the rumours that Now may be coming to Google's homepage for users who are signed in (which would be awesome). Google just wants you to use its products, and it's down to give away a lot of good stuff to keep you using them, regardless of what phone, computer, or browser you use.
iOS users can get Now through a Google Search update in the app store starting today. Give it a shot, and see what you think. It may take a few days for it to learn your preferences and what info is important to you, but once it does, you'll start to wonder how you ever lived without it.