iOS 9 Proactive vs Google Now: Battle of The PDAs

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When smartphones first started becoming mainstream almost 8 years ago they were mainly seen as tools to access the Internet on the go and tools that acted as a repository for our information. Yet as the years passed our smartphones have become more of a type of personal digital assistant with many pieces of software trying to predict our next move and offer up information without us even having to prompt it.

The best example of this type of software is Google Now, software that serves up virtual cards with information it thinks you want to know at certain times. Google Now’s popularity is perhaps why Apple decided to unveil iOS 9’s Proactive at this years World Wide Developers Conference. Proactive aims to compliment search and Siri on iOS devices by serving up relevant information before you even need to ask for it. So how similar–or different–are iOS 9’s Proactive and Google Now? We took a look at both to find out.

iOS 9 Proactive vs Google Now: Compatibility

Proactive is only available on iOS devices running the upcoming iOS 9 or later. Google Now is available on Android devices running Jelly Bean 4.1 or higher and it is also available on iOS devices via the Google app.

iOS 9 Proactive vs Google Now: Similarities

As is the case with many iOS and Android features, Proactive and Google Now are more similar than different. The most obvious example of this is in the way they handle search. Both Proactive and Google Now allow you to enter queries into a search field and get the results on-screen. In other words there’s no need to open a web browser. As for the types of search both handle in this way you can quickly get answers to currency or unit conversions, sports scores, movie showtimes, stocks, and weather.

There is one slight difference between the way both handle search, however. Whereas Proactive will only show you one result (say, the weather in Malta) Google Now will show you that same result, but below it it will also offer up general search results relating to the term. Click on one to get more information.

Another area where both Proactive and Google Now are similar is in the ability to search through your email, notes, and contacts to look for whatever keyword you have entered. This means both services allow you to quickly find specific info relating to an email, person, or note without having to open those individual apps.

Finally, both Proactive and Google Now will also offer you travel directions to upcoming events you have scheduled in your calendar.

iOS 9 Proactive vs Google Now: Differences

Yep, until now both Proactive and Google Now seem very similar–but both have their own unique selling points too (for now anyway).

Starting with iOS 9’s Proactive: swiping to the left of the iOS home screen brings up Proactive, but you won’t only find a search field. You’ll also find suggested contacts and apps. Proactive doesn’t just suggest these people or apps to you randomly. For suggested contacts, for example, Proactive looks at many different factors (who you call the most, what time you call someone) and makes suggestions based on those perimeters. For example, if you call mom every Saturday at 9am, Proactive will have a shortcut to mom’s contact on Saturday around 9am so you can easily call her.

For apps, Proactive again looks at not only which apps you use frequently, but when you use them to suggest relevant apps. Proactive will also show you various different places around you current location. For example, you can tap the “Restaurants” icon on the Proactive screen to find places to eat if you’re in a new city you’ve never been to before.

But my favorite feature of Proactive is in its ability to identify callers. We’ve all had calls from unknown numbers before. Should we answer it? Well, Proactive can now help you decide who by narrowing down who is calling. It works like this: when you receive a call from a number not in your contacts, Proactive will scan your emails and messages and see if that number matches someone from there (perhaps the number is in someone’s email signature). If so, Proactive will tell you who it might be. If it can’t match the person, Proactive will now at least show you what area of the country the phone number is calling from.

As for Google Now, its main unique selling points comes from its ability to scan your Gmail emails and pull out all kinds of data for you. For example, if you have an email with a tracking number for a package, Google Now will serve up a card showing updated tracking info. If one of your emails have flight info in it, you’ll see a card with your flight details (and any real-time changes).

Google Now can also serve up cards showing billing due dates and places of interest nearby. Yes, Proactive does places of interest, but Google Now handles it much better–showing images, opening times, and more. Another great feature of Google Now is that it can lead you to where you parked your car if you’ve forgotten. Google Now makes a note of where your car is when you exit it and to find it all you need to do is say “Ok Google, where is my car?” and Google Now will show its location on a map.

iOS 9 Proactive vs Google Now: Winner

For now, neither. Both are very similar, allowing you to easily access quick information. Proactive gets points for things like predictive contacts and app suggestions–and its ability to identify callers. But Google Now seems more refined, with its intuitive card UI and its ability to pull a lot of information from your Gmail account.

So for now, it’s a tie. Yet Proactive is still in beta, so by the time it’s released to the public this fall it’s possible it could have even more features. If that’s the case, Google Now should look out.

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