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Google Now's new Reminders are easy and powerful, but not quite perfect

Brad Chacos | May 17, 2013
Larry Page and his merry Google crew bill Google Now, the scarily omniscient digital assistant baked into the Search apps for iOS and Android Jelly Bean, as a predictive search engine. Google Now notifies you of information you need, when you need it, without you ever needing to actively search for it. It's essentially your laissez-faire brain in the cloud.

Used correctly, it's easy to imagine Google Now's location-based Reminders becoming far more powerful than traditional, static to-do lists. You could ask Google Now to send you a Reminder when you land at the airport, for example, or to remind you to switch to Wi-Fi when you get to the office. (Gotta watch those data caps!) Have you been meaning to try a certain brew at a certain bar? Set a Reminder.

Google Now also recognizes towns, so you can remind yourself to, say, catch up on a particular friend next time you're in a particular town. With a little creativity, location Reminders could be an almost kinder, gentler version of the more hardcore Locale app.

That said, the new Reminder function isn't quite perfect.

The trouble with quibbles
Google Now isn't trying to be a full-fledged scheduling app, but Reminders could benefit from a few tweaks.

First and foremost, the app would greatly benefit from the ability to set recurring reminders, similar to Google Calendar's "Repeat..." option. Asking Google Now to remind me to get milk every Tuesday only created a Reminder for next Tuesday.

Next, it would be nice if Google Now had the ability to send Reminders when you leave a location. For example, I tried setting a Reminder asking me to get milk when I left the house, but since I was sitting in my house at the time, the app pushed it my way immediately.

One final welcome touch would also pay dividends for Google. As is, Reminders aren't tied into Google+ profiles in any way. If you tie a Reminder to a specific person who also happens to be a Google contact of yours, it would be swell if the system tied that together, so that that person's contact details are available when the Reminder appears.

Why do I bring all of these up? Because each and every one of those features can be found in iOS Reminders, and those three functions make the iPhone's Reminders app more powerful than Google's offering. (And Reminders's features are all accessible via Siri, Apple's voice-activated intelligent assistant.) Apple's version of Reminders also includes support for shared tasks, a feature that's missing from the intensely personal Google Now experience.

That said, nothing Apple offers compares to the full Google Now experience. As mentioned in the TechHive review of Google Now for iOS, Google's intelligent assistant is all about seamlessly presenting you with data when you need it, whereas Siri excels at presenting you with data when you specifically ask for it. They're both fruit, but it's apples and oranges. (With the apples indubitably having the edge in reminders.)


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