Dec 7th, 2012

I don’t know about everyone else, but when Google Now was announced as part of the Android 4.1 update I had a high sense of hope for the service. After months of living in a Jelly Bean world, I am here to express my disappointment in Google’s system of on-demand information.

Let me be clear, my dissatisfaction rests solely in Google Now’s cards system. The improvements to the overall search experience, including voice interactions, are by themselves a valuable addition to the Android ecosystem. I would choose Google Now hands down over Apple’s Siri personal assistant for this reason alone.

But what really excited me about Google Now was the potential for providing information at a glance — relevant information based on my search history, location, and mobile habits. What I actually get is a glorified weather widget with a few local bar and restaurant suggestions. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m not being adventurous enough to trigger more than football scores on a Sunday. Maybe I don’t book enough hotel rooms or take as many flights as I should.

And don’t get me started on Google Now’s suggested travel and traffic times. Google Now is extremely hard to customize in this respect, only allowing you to add a new place after Google detects a frequent location for you. As someone who works from home, I have little use for the traffic card if it will only start me out with locations it assumes are my home and work. But they aren’t. Making matters worse, I typically travel by bike. Google’s traffic widget doesn’t allow you to choose your method of transportation beyond driving or public transit.

But Google Now does do some cool things, like telling me how far I have ridden said bike in a month (how it determines my method of travel is part of the magic that first drew me to the feature). Package tracking info is useful, as long as it registers (I have yet to get this feature to work). But this highlights my issues with Google Now further. In an effort to focus on the service as a predictive suggestion engine, Google has left out the ability for greater control.

As the app stands, Google Now only offers settings and notification options for so many cards. Follow a link to Google’s site and you are greeted with a lengthy list of interactions that you have no control over until Google decides you would like to use them. Going back to the package tracking example, how about a way to manually enter tracking information, Google? How about a way to manually update any of the available cards with information that doesn’t seem to be registering based simply on GMail and search history results?

Or maybe I’m just doing it wrong. It wouldn’t the first time. That’s why I am asking how others have fared with Google Now. Has it been everything you expected? A neat novelty? Or a total disappointment? Sound off.

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