When Google unveiled Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, one of the best new features of the mobile platform was Google Now. An advanced voice search, but with a twist: personalization. Google Now isn't just about some awesome search results, or some fancy cards, but a nice mixture of the two, and some user-focused goodness thrown in for good measure. Good Now is about learning who you are, adapting to your lifestyle, and then letting you know what's going down even before you think about it.
On paper, that doesn't sound like anything else, right? No, it really doesn't. Google Now is certainly its own thing, and there's no doubt in my mind that it works just as it is advertised. I have had a few issues here and there, but nothing that ever made me think that Google had made a mistake.
But, with that being said, I also do not believe that Google Now is meant to actually compete with anything. Specifically, all of these "Google Now vs Siri" situations? A limited scope, I think. Yes, Google Now is a great service, and it's certainly going to make future versions of Android (along with this one, once it starts launching on devices) all the more worthwhile. But, while Google Now and Siri share similar attributes, that's about all they share.
Google Now is search, with plenty of extras thrown in. Siri? Your personal assistant. Even the way that each service interacts with you is different. Yes, Google Now is powerful because there's the whole strength of Google's search powering it. But Siri isn't meant to be a window to search results. Siri is meant to make your life easier, based on the ways that you interact with your phone.
The fact that Siri actually interacts with you, talks to you like a person (even with a slightly creepy voice), and can also do search is just part of why Apple's personal assistant isn't the same thing as Google Now.
I know that it's easy to compare the two, though. I get it. After all, Google Now is the most comparable feature to Siri that Android has to offer. On stock Android, anyway. Samsung has S-Voice, and the comparison there makes more sense. Samsung's personal assistant against Apple's. Google Now isn't a personal assistant, even if it is able to set appointments and check your schedule.
(For the following questions, my friend used his Nexus 7 running Android 4.1.1, stock. My iPhone 4S is currently running the newest Beta of iOS 6. This should be noted because iOS 6 has the sports functionality built-in, while iOS 5 does not. These are real questions, or derivatives of such, that I ask my phone regularly.)
I asked Siri, "Did the Boston Red Sox win tonight?" She promptly replied that they had edged out the Cleveland Indians three-two. Immediately after, I had a friend ask Google Now the same exact question. As you can imagine the service provided a quick reply, confirming the score and the final result.
I was curious when the Boston Bruins play next, so I asked Siri, "When do the Boston Bruins play next?" After just a moment Apple's personal assistant told me that the Boston Bruins will be playing the Philadelphia Flyers on October 11th, followed by the time. My friend then asked Google Now the same question. Instead of finding a direct result, though, Google's service pulled up a Google search page, with the Bruins' home page up front.
"Who directed 'The Bourne Legacy?'" Siri pulled up a movie page for the film proper, with plenty of information, including who directed the film. When my friend asked Google Now the same question, it pulled up an image of Tony Gilroy (the director of the film), and that's it. I'm actually torn on this particle result, mainly because you can't fault Google Now for what it found. After all, it answered the question.
Just the meat and potatoes. Google Now skips the vegetables altogether. And, like I said, you can't fault it for that. But, in my opinion, I prefer the results that Siri provided. More information is always better, especially when it's things like the movie running time. Sometimes, the vegetables are just as good as the meat and potatoes.
I like Google Now. I love the cards, and I like the idea that the feature is actually thinking ahead of me, and reminding me of important things with cards. I really do think Google Now is a fantastic addition to Android, and I can't wait to see how it evolves.
This isn't about how Google Now is less than what Siri is. They both have their strengths. But, I don't think we can necessarily put the two services in head-to-head scenarios and judge a "winner." Even when I did the little experiment, my goal wasn't to judge which service was better, or faster. I just wanted to judge the experience.
I don't show off Siri by asking "her" to tell me jokes. And I didn't show off Google Now by searching for "facts." I show off both features by interacting with my phone (or tablet) in the most realistic, comfortable and fluent way possible. I think we shouldn't compare or contrast applications or features based on the face value, but the overall point. In that regard, Google Now and Siri are faintly similar, but not enough to say one is terrible because the other exists.
If you had to pick, which would you choose? Siri or Google Now? If you really had to pick, tell me which one you'd choose and why. Or, maybe you'd just like to have the best of both worlds.