How to get the most out of Google Now

what is google now

There’s been a fair bit of confusion about what Google Now really is. It’s easy to describe it as Google’s version of Siri, but it’s actually a lot more ambitious than that. Sure, you can use it to set reminders to buy milk or have dinner with friends, and you can ask it basic questions about the weather tomorrow or who directed The Shining, but the real attraction lies in its abilities to preempt your desires and needs.

If you let Google Now learn about you and your habits, then it can throw up information that it thinks you might be interested in. News, sports scores, weather, and traffic information is served up in real time based on your previous movements and searches. Information is served up in the form of cards, which you can tap for more detail or swipe away to ignore. When it works, Google Now can give you what you want before you even know you want it.

The set up

You won’t get great results unless you set Google Now up with all the information it needs. This will involve some trust on your part. For heavy users of Google services it won’t be an issue, but anyone with privacy concerns is liable to think twice. Google Now is built into Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and above, and you can also now get it as a free iOS app (it’s part of the Google Search app).

It’s worth spending some time in the settings before you start to use Google Now. On Android, you’ll probably have a Google search bar on your home screen and you can tap it to bring up Google Now, or you can select Google from the app drawer. You’ll also be able to hold down the Home button or swipe up from the Home button to quickly select Google Now. If you have a stock Android phone or you install the Google Now Launcher then you can simply say, “Ok Google,” on your home screen to bring it to life, or swipe from left to right.

On iOS, you’ll want to open the Google Search app. You should be asked to set it up the first time you use it, but you can return to the app and enter settings whenever you like, in order to tweak things.

Bring Google Now to life, and you’ll find the menu at the top left. Tap the three horizontal lines and choose Settings. You can turn Google Now on and off in here, and you can fine tune how it behaves. The more data you allow it to access, the better it will perform.

In Accounts & privacy, you can set nicknames, web history, and more. You can decide how the Voice settings should work, including the “Ok Google” hotword detection. You have the option to dictate what Phone search covers. In Now cards, you can check your card history, delete your preferences, decide if you want notification alerts, and define what you want to be notified about. If you choose Now on Tap and toggle it on, you can hold down the Home button on any screen and Google will search it and return potentially useful related information.

Customizing Google Now

Open up the menu, via the three horizontal lines at the top left, and choose Customize, which is accompanied by the magic wand icon. Start in Apps & websites to decide whether you want to get cards from supported apps and websites and to choose which ones. In Places you can set locations, such as your home and workplace. The Sports and Stocks sections let you choose sports teams and stocks that you are interested in. In Transport, you can tell Google how you usually get around and whether you drive or walk to work everyday. If you live in a supported country, then you can choose TV & Video to set your TV and Video on demand providers, and get recommendations about movies and TV shows. If you go into Everything Else you’ll find options about website updates, preferences for units of temperature, weather updates, and a few other bits and pieces.

The data contained in Google Now will be collected automatically as you use your various Google services. A quicker way to edit your Google Now preferences is to tap the menu icon (three vertical dots) at the top right of every card that appears and choose your preferences from the drop down menu.

If you want to check up on any reminders you have set, then open the menu again and choose Reminders at the top. It’s marked by an icon of an outstretched finger. You can add details to reminders here, delete old ones, or add new ones. When you add a new reminder you can choose to be reminded at a specific time, or you can choose to be reminded when you reach a specific location.

Pre-emptive Google Now

If you really want to get a feel for what Google Now can do, then you have to let it run for an extended period of time. It needs at least a week to start to get a handle on your movements and the kind of information that you are interested in. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t turn GPS on to get your location, and it shouldn’t be a major drain on your battery life. Just let it to gather intel in the background, and you’ll reap the rewards over time.

The more Google Now learns about you, the more useful it potentially becomes. Being able to tie together the fact that you have an appointment across town, with real-time traffic conditions, to give you a reminder about when you need to leave and what route to take to get there on time is impressive, but it obviously won’t be useful for everyone. Much depends on the way you use your phone and what your habits are.

As cards pop up, you can swipe them away to the right or left to get rid of them, tap on them to get more detailed information, or tap the menu icon at the top right to tell Google Now whether you like these kinds of updates and want to continue getting them. There’s an undo option that pops up briefly after you swipe a card away, and you can tap it to bring that card back. You can also scroll down to the bottom to request that it show More cards. You’ll tend to find it doesn’t show much at first, but over time it should display more and more interesting and relevant cards.

Mobile

Audio company Bragi is suing OnePlus over the word 'dash'

Despite taking steps to change to "Warp Charge," OnePlus is being sued by audio company Bragi over the phone manufacturer's continued use of the word "dash" in the Dash Charging used in OnePlus phones.
Computing

PDF to JPG conversion is quick and easy using these simple methods

Converting file formats can be an absolute pain, but it doesn't have to be. We've put together a comprehensive guide on how to convert a PDF to JPG, no matter which operating system you're running.
Home Theater

DirecTV Now: Everything you need to know

If you’re looking to ditch your cable or satellite subscription, DirecTV Now could be the perfect service for you. Our comprehensive guide breaks the service down feature by feature so you can see if it's right for you.
Social Media

How to send money on Facebook

In case you weren't already aware, you can now use Facebook Messenger to send or request money, which will allow you to skirt the fees oft-associated with services like Venmo. Here's how to use it.
Gaming

What the FUT? An in-depth guide to getting started in 'FIFA 19' Ultimate Team

New to the latest entry in the FIFA franchise? Our 'FIFA 19' Ultimate Team guide will provide you with everything you need to know. including which packs to focus on first and how to extend contracts.
Mobile

The best weather apps for Android will keep you dry no matter where you go

You may not be able to change the weather, but you can at least be prepared for it. Check out our guide to the best weather apps for Android, so you'll always know what to expect when you step out the front door.
Mobile

Hateful software kills our enthusiasm for newcomer Realme’s $155 Android phone

Realme is a new smartphone brand with an interesting start to life, as it closely mirrors that of OnePlus, a brand we admire. The Realme 2 is its second phone, and we've given it a try to see if it's a winner.
Mobile

Android 9.0 Pie is finally rolling out to the OnePlus 6

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

Keep the iPhone XS display crack-free with these screen protectors

Apple might have proclaimed the iPhone XS's glass as being its most durable ever, but that's not going to stop you from wincing if you drop your phone. Stay protected with the best iPhone XS screen protectors.
Mobile

Apple iPhone XS Max vs. Huawei P20 Pro: Clash of the titans

Anyone seeking a great new smartphone with plenty of money to spend has two amazing options, but which is better for you? We pit the Apple iPhone XS Max vs. Huawei P20 Pro in various categories to help you choose.
Product Review

Don't let the bigger iPhones woo you away: The XS is still a masterpiece

Apple’s next smartphone is here -- the iPhone XS. We think it’s the perfect size for an iPhone, and it manages to impress with astounding performance, and sizable camera improvements.
Product Review

With its epic screen, Apple's iPhone XS Max is a phone you can live inside

The iPhone XS Max is here. Should you get the massive 6.5-inch iPhone from Apple? Or should you pick the smaller iPhone XS? We’ve been putting the Max through its paces to find out in our review.
Mobile

BlackBerry Key2 LE vs. BlackBerry Key2: Which productivity titan reigns supreme?

The Blackberry Key2 LE has many of the same features as its more expensive competitor, the BlackBerry Key2, yet comes in at $250 less. Which one should you choose? Here's how the BlackBerry Key2 LE and BlackBerry Key2 compare.
Mobile

Master your iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max with our favorite tips and tricks

If you're one of the lucky folks that managed to snag an iPhone XS or XS Max, you may be wondering how to use your new phone in a post-home button world. Here are a few of our favorite iPhone XS tips and tricks to get you started.
1 of 2