Apple May Be Creating a Google Now Alternative for iOS 9

By Darren Orf on at

The iPhone’s big software version for 2015 seems surprisingly dull. Security and stability are always good things, but iOS 9 had appeared to be more about maintenance than a makeover. However, a new rumour about a feature called “Proactive” suggests iOS 9 might have a few tricks up its sleeve.

The Google Now personal assistant is one of my favourite things about Android. It’s gotten me to meetings on time (on several occasions) and even reminded me of concerts and other events I’ve completely forgotten about. And iOS needs something similar. 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman reports that a feature called Proactive “will automatically provide timely information based on the user’s data and device usage patterns” but will also respect their privacy, citing sources who are in the Apple know. Apple’s supposedly been working on this update piecemeal through various acquisitions of companies like Cue—and it could reveal the new software superpowers at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8.

Gurman says Proactive will return to the left of the home screen, much like Google Now on stock Android devices and Spotlight before the iOS 7 redesign. As for the feature itself, it will look like Spotlight and retain much of its functionality like launching apps, searching contacts, and the like. But now, there will be a running list of information below the search bar that pulls data from apps, contacts, and maps. Here’s how Gurman describes its functionality:

For example, if a user has a flight listed in her Calendar application and a boarding pass stored in Passbook, a bubble within the new Proactive screen will appear around flight time to provide quick access to the boarding pass. If a user has a calendar appointment coming up, a map view could appear with an estimated arrival time, directions, and a time to leave indicator based on traffic.

Where Apple goes one step further than Google Now is by also keeping tabs on how you use your iPhone—and prompting actions automatically based on that data. If you open certain apps at certain times day after day, the Proactive feature will serve up a quick launch icon for those apps that fit your routine. The same is said for phone calls if you have a habit of calling family members or loved ones after work, for example.

It (hopefully) won’t just be Apple apps locked into this new feature; Gurman suggests that iOS 9 may also release a limited Siri API for third-party developers, codenamed “breadcrumbs,” that will let other apps in on the Siri party. Developers won’t have full access at first, supposedly because of security concerns, but may have free reign in the future.

Maps also may be getting an interesting AR feature where iPhone users can hold their devices up to eye-level and get information on restaurants and other businesses like menus, store hours, and daily specials. Gurman says this feature is called “Browse Around Me” and could be the first visible fruit of Apple’s search for VR/AR specialists earlier this year. It would be Apple’s first real foray into anything VR or AR-related.

Apple definitely has a lot of ground to cover if it wants to catch up to Google Now’s can’t-live-without-it convenience, but if these rumours end up being true, it’s heading in the right direction. [9to5Mac]