If I had to decide versus Google's Google Now, or Apple's Siri, I'm afraid I wouldn't have to think about it too hard anymore. Despite the fact that Siri has been upgraded quite a bit from its first iteration, I think she's still pretty limited in her "assistant" functions. And, frankly, the only reason I know she's limited in her functions is because Google Now exists. I've spent plenty of time with both services, both features, and I still think Siri needs a raise, so she can be a bit more proactive in her abilities, rather than just a function that waits to be told what to do.
That's what Google Now is. The feature literally invades your life, through your email inbox, for instance, and it does its best to help you navigate the thoroughfare that is your life as smoothly as possible. Google Now will tell you when you need to leave for work, or another appointment, thanks to Google Maps traffic data.
Our high-end devices have been called "smartphones" for a long time, but I think we're living in a time where that title is truly deserved. When I use a Galaxy Note II, which is filled to the brim with functionality to help in a work-place environment, I feel like Google Now is literally assisting me when I need it. Tracking packages. Letting me know, without me having to actually check, when my favorite hockey team is playing.
Google Now is impressive. And yet, it's been missing one feature that actually plays to one of Android's most blatant strengths: Widgets. Despite the fact Google Now has been around for a few months now, and has lived through one software update (Android 4.2), it's still without a widget of its own. It could be argued that Google Now isn't all that hard to access already, so a widget wasn't all that necessary, and I could agree with that. I don't think a widget was ever absolutely essential to Google Now's success -- something we've proved since a widget doesn't exist.
But it's a feature that I think a lot of people would love to have access to, and I'm certainly one of them. A Google Now widget would be ridiculously powerful.
And it looks like we're getting one.
According to a report initially released by Android Central, Google is apparently gearing up to launch the Google Now widget, if a few support pages for "launching the Google Now widget" are to be believed. (There are pictures!) The widget would be a summary of your active Google Now cards, letting you see, at a glance, what Google Now is working on at any moment.
From the stock image included with the support pages, we can see the weather, a stock card, and a card for how long it will take to get home. Putting that information, along with other pieces of info, like package shipment details, just makes Google Now's namesake make even more sense. Your important information right there, ready to see, now. Whenever you want it.
It's even better that you'll have the option to put that widget on your lock screen or home screen, depending on your device and your preferences. Having these options is just a big bonus for Google. It's one of those situations where you can't help but wonder why it took so long.
I think the Google Now widget is a great idea right now, and I hope Google is planning on releasing it soon, however they plan on doing that (packaged in a big software update, or just as a single feature update). At the same time, I could see why they'd want to wait until Google I/O, after they publicly announce a new version of Android. They could use that time to showcase a brand new, updated version of Google Now, with all new features, including that interactive widget. I will say that I'd love to get a Now widget on my incoming Nexus 4 as soon as possible, though.
Just throwing that out there, Google.
I have to play devil's advocate here for a moment, though. I know that I would like to say Google Now is perfect, but we all know it isn't. There are features that Siri has that Google Now doesn't, so it would make sense to hope those things do, indeed, get included in a new version of Google's mobile assistant. But, even with those direct comparisons missing, I think it's safe to say that Google Now started at a pretty high point in its life. It came out of the gate swinging, with a great features list, a ridiculously nice visual approach, and ease of use. It started at the top, and Google obviously wants to keep climbing.
So how long can we see a great product keep getting better before it stagnates? Will Google Now lose its interest level from users faster than Google can include new, noteworthy features? Can a widget, something so standard in Android's war chest of features, really make a difference? Let me know what you think.