Five features I want next from Google Now
Google Now is a service that I love and use daily.
I’m pretty sure I’ve made that clear by now. It notifies me of developments on stories I’ve been following in the news, makes suggestions on things I’ve been looking to buy, automatically tracks packages for me, tells me when I should leave to make appointments on time, and tells me what’s going on in Charlotte on any given night.
Most of the other Pocketnow guys (except for Joe and maybe Michael) don’t, however. Anton doesn’t because it’s practically useless in his country; Stephen doesn’t by choice; I couldn’t tell you about Jaime, Rithvik, or Adam Doud; and Adam Lein, of course, uses Cortana.
No less, Google has been adding more and more functionality to its digital assistant. Lately, it’s learned to help you pay your bills on time, how to make suggested calendar appointments based on your conversations, deliver reminders based on whom you are with, and to cancel trial subscriptions before they expire (and automatically start charging you).
These are all pretty neat and helpful tricks. Naturally, however, we want more from Google Now. These are the five things we hope to see from Google Now in the not too distant future.
Hardware setting control
We’ve actually seen evidence of this sort of option in leaked versions of Google now, but it’s mysteriously never come to fruition.
Basically, you could say something like, “Ok, Google. Turn off Wi-Fi,” and your Wi-Fi would toggle off. These sort of setting controls could work for any of the toggles found in the Quick Settings panel found on most smartphones these days: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Mobile Data, NFC, Airplane Mode, vibrate, GPS, hotspot, and brightness control.
Currently, if you say “Turn off Wi-Fi” in a Google voice search, it will simply take you to Wi-Fi settings, rather than simply toggle the setting for you. We’re not sure why Google hasn’t flipped the switch on this particular feature yet, but we’re definitely hoping it will sometime in the near future.
I also don’t see why this feature couldn’t be used in conjunction with Reminders to toggle Settings based on locations or times. For instance, “Turn off Wi-Fi in one hour,” or “Turn off Wi-Fi when I leave home.”
This is the true power of Google Now that Google isn’t harnessing.
Extended device info
I reached out to the team to ask for some of their input on the matter, and one idea from Stephen jumped out at me. He said he wanted the ability to ask Google Now for analysis on the phone’s status. For example, if your phone’s battery is draining faster than normal, you could simply call upon Google Now. “Ok, Google. Why is my phone dying so quickly.”
Google Now could then respond with the application which is hogging your CPU, tell you the data connection is poor and constantly switching from 3G to LTE, or tell you the brightness setting is simply too high.
Theoretically, Google Now could also return more granular information on your device, as well, such as: average battery life, average screen-on time, CPU usage, internal temperature, etc.
Currently, you can launch practically any app using Google Now, but that’s effectively the extend of third-party integration.
With the announcement of Cortana and our hands-on with the Windows Phone 8.1 developer preview, we got to experience the extended third-party integration within Cortana. You can say things like, “Skype, get me Michael Fisher,” and Cortana will open Skype and begin a call with Michael Fisher. Or you could say, “Netflix, add Breaking Bad to my queue.” Netflix will launch and the show will automatically be added to your watch list.
If you say things like this to Google Now, it simply performs a web search. Google Now should (and very well could) be smarter than this.
Make it happen, Google.
A working widget
In case you didn’t know, Google Now has a widget. It has gotten better in more recent updates, but its functionality hasn’t really changed all that much. It’s practically just a quick glance feature that periodically updates. It takes up a ton of space and provides minimal information.
You can’t swipe unwanted content away. In fact, you can’t control what appears in the widget at all. It’s all or nothing.
Having a scrollable Google Now widget with more compact and user-definable information would be a blessing to my home screen.
More control over content
If you scroll to the very bottom of Google Now on your device and hit the wand icon, you can control what content appears in Google Now, you can tailor it to your tastes, personalize it. You can also edit what appears by hitting the settings button on individual cards.
For instance, Justin Bieber’s new album popped up in my recommended music a few days ago. I immediately removed the card from Google Now and told Google I never want to see anything from Justin Bieber again.
If you’ve ever tried to edit this information, though, you know it’s very sparse and … not detailed. You can tell Google what you don’t want to see or read about in Google Now, only after it’s delivered that information to you. You can add sports teams and stocks, but you can’t manually tell Google what you like. It only learns through your searches.
In Cortana we saw a much more transparent and user-controlled set of content management. You can manually tell Cortana what to keep you updated on, and you have total control over everything that appears in Cortana.
More control is easily the most important feature Google Now is missing. I’ve wanted it from the very first time I used the service, and while Google has added more functionality to the content management, it still isn’t up to snuff.
What say you, ladies and gents? Did we miss something you want to see in Google now in a future update? Sound off below with your feature requests and sentiments!