Google Now mobile app. Photo: AFP
Google has updated its Google Now mobile app with movie reviews, cinema tickets and real estate information and has pushed it to the lockscreen, meaning that users can use it without having to launch the app or even unlock their smartphone or tablet.
An intelligent personal assistant, similar to Apple's voice-operated Siri system, which can also be accessed via a device's lockscreen, Google Now can answer questions and make recommendations and access web services. However, unlike its iPhone counterpart, Google Now can also ‘push' information to users that it predicts they will need.
The changes mean that from now on, a device running Android Jelly Bean (version 4.1) with the app installed will feature three cards on its lockscreen, each of which features information deemed important to the user at that particular moment in time. This information can be based on location, appointments in the diary, existing search habits and even the contents of emails in a user's Gmail account.
As Google product management director Baris Gultekin explains in a blog post to accompany the update: "When computers do the hard work, you can get on with the things that matter in life. Google Now helps you do just that, giving you the information you need, before you even have to ask."
The latest changes will not only allow users to check film reviews and buy movie tickets, it will prompt them when it's time to leave for the theater (factoring in any transit service issues) and will automatically show the digital ticket on the user's smartphone screen as he or she enters the cinema. Meanwhile, the real estate feature can give users the listings of houses and apartments based on their physical location.
But probably the biggest improvement is moving the app to a device's lockscreen so that information is always present. Displayed as three information cards, users can determine what types of information should be displayed and can rank information in terms of importance, teaching the app your preferences in the process. For example news of a cancelled or delayed flight while a user is travelling to the airport would be of greater importance -- and therefore displayed more prominently -- than the half-time score of a football match.
The latest changes are the fourth update to Google Now since it launched in 2012. Other recent changes include enhanced functionality for travelling such as the weather forecasts in vacation destinations, the automatic pushing of boarding passes and plane tickets to the home screen and suggestions of things to do when the plane lands.
"When Google Now first launched last summer, we promised it was just the beginning, and it would continue to get better at delivering you more of the information you need, before you even ask. This is the fourth update since launch, and we're just getting started!" says Gultekin.