Google Now for iOS gains handsfree parity with Android. And it’s fast!

Google(s goog) continues to bring more parity to the Google experience between Android and iOS devices. On Tuesday, the company released a new version of its Google app for iOS and the highlights focus on Google Now thanks to these new features:

  • Notifications – Get notified when it’s time to go.
  • Reminders – Never forget to put out the trash.
  • New cards – See tickets, boarding passes, & more.
  • Handsfree voice – Just say “OK Google” to search – requires iPhone 4s or later.

I gave the updated software a quick test run on an iPhone 5s and I’m very impressed. Note that I use Google Now on my Android phones numerous times per day. I was able to voice dictate a reminder and have the iPhone surface it at the appropriate time; it even pushed the reminder to my smartwatch.

Google Now iOS

What surprises me to some extent is how quick the app is when in voice dictation mode. In a few head-to-head tests, Google Now on iOS is much faster to interpret and react to my voice commands than on both the Moto X and Nexus 5 handsets. The big downside, however, is that the Google app needs to be open on the iPhone in order to listen for commands. I’m a little spoiled by the “always listening” feature on the Moto X that enables Google Now whenever the phone is on.

Given the speed of Google Now and the improvements overall in Google services on iOS, I’m starting to think a radical thought: Could the iPhone offer the “best of both worlds” now? Combine Apple’s hardware and ecosystem with Google’s apps for iOS and even heavy-duty Google service users could certainly be happy customers.