Google Now, Google App and Google Assistant Explained
Last Updated: January 19, 2018
The Google App is a text and voice activated personal assistant and has been available since android Jelly bean (android 4.1).
The Google App started out as Google search and then became Google now and now is simply called the Google App of just Google.
Most of the information you find on the web has references to Google now, but when you look for Google now settings on your device you won’t find them labelled as Google now but simply as Google. However generally the settings are still the same.
How Does It Work? and What Can It Do?
You can use Google now to :
- Create reminders
- Answer questions
- Search the web
- send email
If you are signed into your Google account on any device (PC ,smart phone etc) then Google will record your Internet activity, and your location. See Location tracking
Google then uses this information to give you information on what it thinks you are interested in.
For example, It might see that you are in a different location and present you with restaurant and accommodation recommendations.
The more information Google has collected on you and your daily activities then the more accurate the recommendations will become.
Google presents this information in a card format as shown below.
You can press on a card to see more information or swipe away the card from the screen.
If you swipe away a card e,g, the weather it will reappear when it gets updated.
Before we look at set up and customization take a look at this video which gives a really good introduction.
Google Now Cards -Your Feed
There are many different card types that are used for categorizing and displaying information.
Which cards are displayed is determined by your preferences and activity.
For example if you change your location you might find new cards appearing based on that location. Here is a screen shot from the Google help page.
Adjusting Your Feed Settings
Before you can customize your feed you need to enable web and App activity.
Open the Google App by clicking on the App icon.
Look for the main menu icon(top left or bottom right)
Press the main menu iconand click on settings.
Click on Accounts & privacy and then Google activity controls. Enable web & App Activity
To see which cards are configured to be displayed press the main menu iconand click on settings and Your Feed.
The show feed setting at the top should be enabled for anything to appear.
With the show feed enabled you will see News information based on your interests appear on the main Google App screen.
Additionally you enable notifications to enable notification cards to appear on the main screen.
Provided you have enabled notifications then if you swipe down you should see a list of card types, and a toggle switch to enable or disable them.
To see how these cards work in more detail take a look at this article.
Customize Your Feeds
The cards that you have enable may not display all the information you want.
Go back to the main menu and click on customize to adjust the settings.
You should see a screen like the one below that lets you adjust the settings for various categories like sports,TV,Movies etc.
This article goes into much more detail on customisation
Managing your Card History
If you are worried about the information Google has recorded about you then you can delete some or all of your card history by going here in web browser or going to Settings>accounts & privacy and MyActivity in the Google App.
This techrepublic article has more details
Google Now On Tap
This feature was introduced in Android v6 (Marshmallow) and is activated by voice command or pressing on the home button.
When activated the content of the current screen is scanned and the result is used to generate a search based on the keywords it finds.
The result is displayed as a series of cards.
This demo video shows how it works.
Google Now Launcher
The Google now launcher can be installed from the Google play store.
On android the launcher is the App responsible for the home screen, and if you don’t like the home screen that comes with your device you can install and switch to a new one.
You can install the Google now launcher just like any other App from the Google play store.
The google now launcher gives you easy access to Google now. You can find more details in the Google now launcher explained article.
The Google Assistant
The Google assistant is virtual personal assistant available since 2016 on the Google messaging App and home speaker.
It is basically an upgraded version of Google now and will eventually replace it.
The Google Assistant lets you have two way dialogue with Google. See the many ways Google assistant augments and replaces Google now and now on tap
It is installed by default on Android 7 and above and may have already be installed as an upgrade on your device.
Google Voice Commands
The microphone icon in the Google search bar widget has been there since the early days of Android.
You can click in the search bar to do a text search or press on the microphone icon to do a voice search.
However since Android 4.4 you could activate voice search and give your device limited commands by saying “OK Google”.
The old Google voice search has evolved to become a virtual assistant. The trend is set to continue with voice control becoming the main way that people interact with their smart phone,tablets and other devices