Skip to story When Google Now opens its API to all developers, get ready to access many services through cards rather than apps. It could pave the way to a post-app mobile experience. Google
Google Now lives life a quarter-second at a time. The feature, which comes standard on every Android phone, surfaces information to you based on the time of day and your current location. It always shows you a simple dashboard of cards, each filled with timely notifications, reminders, and real-time data.
With a newly open API, Google is working with its partners to present even more of that information on your mobile screen. And today, Google has announced more than 70 new integrations for Now. You can find new music to listen to, control your smart home, and even track the whereabouts of your food delivery from the restaurant to your door, all within the confines of Google Now. When you say “OK Google” into your watch or phone to activate Google Now, you’re not just searching for stuff—you’re doing stuff.
The services of the future have to do the heavy lifting for you.
The Now platform is essentially the entire interface for Android Wear devices, and it’s becoming more and more important on Android phones as well. (There’s also a great Google app for iOS, if you didn’t know, which is basically just Now and a search box.) Its primary purpose, product manager Aparna Chennapragada said in a phone interview, is to show you everything you need to see every time you look at your device.
“You’re on the go, you have maybe thirty seconds to look at your phone,” she says. “How can we get that information to you before you have to ask?” The perfect mix is a cocktail of reminders, news, and actionable info. And the more you learn to trust Google to deliver the right mix—the things you need right now, the things you’ll need in an hour, and the score to the game you missed that last that you desperately want to know—the more powerful Now becomes. For Google, that process is all about collecting more data. “The services of the future have to do the heavy lifting for you,” Chennapragada says. “It’s almost unsexy, because, like, we need to do more work.”
These integrations are only half the job, though. Google also wants Now to be the place you start on your phone, the first place you go to do everything. Why should you have to remember which streaming service has which movie, or whether that restaurant is on Seamless or Eat24? The future of Now is about giving you more access to the apps and services that power your life—that’s surely part of Google’s plans for its new partners. “If there’s a single tap to say, ‘Hey, I’m at the airport, call a Lyft,’ I’ll go do it,” Chennapragada says. “You’re compressing a whole bunch of steps.”
But right now, Google Now is about push. It’s a new, smarter spin on notifications. It’s about showing you what you need to know, and speeding up the process of finding what you want to know. You need it, and you need it now.