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Google's bread and butter of Android are services like Google Drive and Gmail. Likewise, the company hailing from Mountain View also found a market with Google Now, and it's easily my favorite feature of any Android smartphone. I cannot keep track of how many times per day I use Google Now, and I feel it's a good thing. With its multiple levels of tailored information, the value proposition of Google Now is a clear reminder of how reliant I am on El Goog.

I check the weather with Google Now. I use it to see local concerts. Calendar events, stocks, and directions are visited multiple times a day as well. It's a personal assistant that doesn't require micro management.

However, as I've been focusing on the Nexus 4 and HTC One as of late, it's become increasingly difficult to ignore how bad Google Now feels on the One as compared to the latter.

On the Nexus 4 you're always a swipe up from the home button from launching Google Now. It feels as natural as pressing the power button to turn on and off a smartphone. It's the focal point of the experience, and it brings a natural feel to stock Android that I can't ignore. Every time I revisit on-screen buttons after an absence, I remember why I prefer them over everything else. Capacitive and physical buttons of Android feel like the equivalent of the iPhone's home button: old school.

Likewise, the HTC One handles Google Now entirely different than the Nexus 4, and I'm not at all impressed by its functionality. A long press of the home button will launch the service, but it just feels medieval. It's not as fluid as it should be. To top it all off, you can no longer launch Google Now from the lock screen, which is entirely the fault of Sense 5.0, and proof that there is work to be done with the next version of HTC Sense.

Essentially, my main gripe with the One's home button is complex, but strictly from the perspective of launching Google Now, it just isn't a good implementation. It's finicky. The home button is overworked on the One and it clearly shows. A short tap brings you home, as you'd expect, but you can also double tap to view your recent apps list, and long press to launch Google Now. On paper these functions sound perfectly acceptable as they don't veer away from any other Android smartphone's handling of these functions, but it doesn't compliment the Google Now experience at all.  

It's likely that the capacitive home button on the One has a "sweet spot," and that I'm just not used to the placement of the button. But that still doesn't take away the fact that for every time I go to launch Google Now and it doesn't work, the immediacy that makes Google Now wonderful is lost for a split second. 

There is always the option of adding Google Now onto the dock of your home screen so you can access it from the lock screen as a shortcut. However, that means you have to sacrifice an item from the dock.

The whole situation is a bit frustrating.

What it boils down to is how often the home button is visited when using the HTC One. This home button gets around, and I feel like it's getting abused. However, the much larger picture is Google's lack of requirements might be hindering the immediacy of the Google Now experience.

If Google Now was really a feature, and not just an afterthought, Google would assert the app as more of a component of each Android device, and not simply something that must be "fit in" by OEM's at the last minute.

I realize that the word "open" can easily be thrown around as defense against any sort of hardware requirements, but the fact of the matter is Google Now works better on smartphones with on-screen buttons. This experience is not limited to the Nexus 4, either, as many OEM's have hopped on the train to on-screen button-ville lately.

I'm not saying all Android smartphones need on-screen buttons. What millions of people like about the Samsung Galaxy S 4 could very well be the physical home button. I just think Google should flaunt the power of Google Now a bit more by implementing standards for launching it. There needs to be a reason Android smartphones have deep Google Now integration since the service is already available on competing operating systems.

Google Now needs to be available from the home screen. There could be a dedicated button to launch Google Now, or a button-plus-button combination to launch it from any app, or when the screen is off. Since Google Now will undoubtedly be around for a while, this service needs to be controlled to a point that it doesn't hurt its sole motive: to get information quickly no matter where you are in the Android OS.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the implementation of Google Now on the HTC One, and other Android smartphones. Does button layout negatively affect the experience of Google Now? Do you think Google should implement standards to streamline the Google Now experience? You know the drill! Hit the comments below to get the discussion going!

Updated with lock screen shortcut references. Thanks, guys!


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Comments & discussions  

22 Reactions to this post

"Google Now is launched a variety of different ways on each Android smartphone. Do you prefer the long press of a capacitive and physical button, or the swipe up of a device with on-screen keys?"


Please limit your reaction to 140 characters or use comments for a longer reply :)
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Thanks for your participation! :)

Rob Watkins Swiping up is natural, but I find myself launching it accidentally when scrolling through pics or reading an article. Older devices like the Droid Bionic use the search button at the bottom of the screen. That seems to make more sense. On newer phones that lack the dedicated search button on the bottom menu, Google could make it an option in their three dot menu button that appears in the upper right or lower right on most home screens. That could mean the removal of the omnipresent search Window at the top of the screen on most newer builds of Android.
Adrian Salazar Jr. On screen buttons!!!
Mark Belkowski is it me or has phonedog run out of original questions to ask?
Tony Abiama I like the swipe up on the Nexus 4, but on my LG Optimus G I king of do the same thing
Marlon Milligan Long press
Joel Diaz I use up up down down left right left right b a b a select start.
Ransom OShields I use Nova Launcher so I think this whole article is a shame lol...
Sheck Welle long damn press on my lovely HTC ONE.I missed the way i was using it on my Nexus 4.
Adam Schulte Long press on the DROID DNA
Eric Divine Long press is good on the One
Jaime Espinoza I'm fine with pressing and holding the "Menu" button to activate "Google Now" on My Note 2.
Jordan Brown Long press of a button.
Eric Hook Long press on The One.
Niels Rafael up swiping lift and right
George Millhouse Dorian. Seek help for your anger issues. You dweeb.
Yumi Faeldo Swipe up
Hector Enrique Mercado I like how its done in the Nex4 swiping up the home screen.
Adam Rieder I find myself accidentally swiping up and launching Google Now a lot. Though, back when I had my iPhone, I'd also accidentally activate Siri frequently. Neither one is an ideal solution.
Dorian Rossi >"Google Now is launched a variety of" >is are you fucking dumb
Nain El Fuego Romero Definitely swipe up, love it on my nexus 4 and nexus 7. It feels so seamless !
Lanh Nguyen swipe up...




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