Google Now was probably the best thing to happen to mobile devices in 2012. Google’s brilliant virtual assistant uses location, search history and other data to automatically present users with information like the weather, driving directions to meetings and travel times, sports scores and more without any interaction required on the user’s part. After a long wait, iOS device users finally gained access to Google Now earlier this week when Google updated its iOS search app with Google Now functionality, but its arrival was marred by two problems: first, platform limitations on iOS and Google’s decision to forego push notifications make Now far less useful on Apple devices than it is on Android. Beyond that, an apparent bug in Google’s app is seemingly causing location services to stay on and drain users’ batteries.
The first issue is insurmountable, to an extent. The whole point of Google Now is that it gives us all of this great information before we even know we need it. Since apps are very limited on iOS in terms of what they can do while minimized, Now will never be as useful on iOS as it is on Android. Push notifications would have helped matters to a degree — Google could have alerted users when important new “cards” become available — but the app’s functionality would still be limited compared to the Android version.
The second issue is something that a number of users began complaining about shortly after Google Now became available on iOS. Once Now is enabled in Google’s search app, it keeps locations services alive even while minimized. Many users complained that the batteries on their iPhones and iPads were draining faster as a result, but Google issued a statement to Lifehacker on Thursday denying any problems with its new app.
Reports that Google Now drains battery life are incorrect. We understand people’s concern about seeing the Location Services icon stay on when they use Google Now. Many apps that keep the icon on actually do drain the phone’s battery because they require very accurate location. (For example a navigation app has to run your GPS all the time to keep you from missing your turn.) Google Now is built very differently: it uses cell towers and wifi hot spots for much lower battery impact.
We extensively tested Google Now on iOS for months and didn’t see reports of significant battery impact — we would encourage you to try it in the Google Search app for a few days and we don’t expect you to see significant impact on your battery. If you are seeing a problem, please do tell us (just tap feedback in the app settings). We take user feedback very seriously.
For those who haven’t yet tried Google Now on iOS, it is available immediately in Google’s free Google Search app.