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In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to search your phone for the app that you need. Instead, your smartphone might surface the right app at just the right time. Sounds good, right? It’s coming to Google Now for Android, at least on a small scale.
The contextual service — part of the Google app and baked into [company]Google[/company] Android since software version 4.4 — has some new partner apps as of Friday. Google announced the change in a blog post, highlighting a few of the 40 apps that work with Google Now:
In the morning, catch up on news of the day with cards from The Guardian. On your commute, Pandora can give you recommendations for music to play, based on what you like, or you can be reminded to complete your daily French lesson on Duolingo. During your downtime, you can take care of the groceries, with a card from Instacart reminding you to stock up on the things you often order. If you’re planning a trip and looked up places to stay on your Airbnb app but couldn’t make up your mind, you’ll see Now cards from Airbnb for the location and dates you’ve researched. And when you land at an airport, you’ll see a card to order a Lyft.
I love the concept here of a contextual app platform and hope Google continues to expand it with even more developer partners in the future. The idea of a mobile phone intelligently showing useful apps based on location or time (or both!) is a step forward towards making smartphones even smarter. Take the case of Zillow, which is one of the new app cards. Google Now will notify you when a property that meets your requirements hits the market. Imagine it a step further with nearly Open House cards popping up as you’re driving around at just the right time.
There’s a bigger opportunity for Google here, however: Extending and expanding this to wearable devices. Scrolling through lists of apps on the small screen of an Android Watch, for example, is generally a frustrating experience. Google has improved it by moving more frequently used apps higher in the list but to me, that’s just a workaround. Having just the right app appear on the wrist at a predicted time or or place is wisely uses context in a useful way.