There’s a big update coming to the Google Assistant for iOS and Android today. Google is resurrecting the predictive Google Now cards that used to exist in the pre-assistant era, and the company is sticking them in the Google Assistant interface.
Before the transition to the Google Assistant and the Google (News) Feed, Google Now was one of the best parts of Android. This list of cards below the standard Google Search interface tried to show you information before you asked for it. This included things like travel times to your common places, upcoming appointments, flights, and the weather. Google Now would even do really smart things like tell you when to leave for an appointment based on the live traffic conditions between you and the appointment location. During the transition to the Google Assistant, these predictive cards were buried deeper in the UI, and eventually they just stopped showing up. Google ended up turning the card stream into a news article feed, and, for a while, there has been no way to see many of these predictive cards.
Today, Google is bringing the cards back as the Assistant’s “Visual Snapshot” feature. You’ll be able to see traffic to common destinations, weather, upcoming appointments, flights, recent packages from your email, stock updates, reminders, reservations, upcoming bills, and more. Google also promises that in the future we’ll see the return of automatic parking location tracking, activities nearby that you might be interested in, personalized recommendations for music and podcasts, and notes and lists from Google Keep, Any.do, Bring, Todoist, and other note apps. Google says you’ll get “proactive notifications” on your phone about all of this, too.
The feature is starting to roll out today. On Android, you’ll be able to access this list by opening the Assistant (long-press on the Home button) and tapping on a new button in the top right of the Assistant screen. On iOS, you can just tap on the Assistant icon and see the list.
This sounds like an incredible update. Google should have never removed the cards before, but, after all the complaints, bringing them back will make a lot of people happy. I am not sure about the extra tap to reach the cards on Android. As we learned with the slow death of Google Now, burying these cards behind extra taps makes them a lot less useful—it almost sounds like iOS has a better setup than Android. I would love to see these cards right on the first Assistant screen: ideally, I pull up the Assistant, activate the mic, and show all the cards in a big, scrollable list. For now, this sounds like a big improvement.
Listing image by Google