Google Now is being left to wither and die as Google Assistant takes the focus

Google Now used to be really useful. It used to be so good that I only used Google Now Launcher (opens in new tab) on every phone because I needed to have Google Now just a swipe away on my home screen. Any other launcher felt like it was keeping me disconnected from information that I relied on every day.

As we turned the calendar over to 2018, and just spent a week at CES 2018 seeing a huge emphasis on Google Assistant, it looks like Google's happy to let the traditional Google Now feature set — aka the "feed" — wither and die. In the past six months, Google Now has gone from a must-have feature to something I have stopped looking at regularly and even forgotten about for days at a time. It's no longer helpful, insightful or useful.

Google Now feed on the Pixel

Every morning, I used to unlock my phone, swipe to the right on my home screen and scroll through Google Now. I'd get updates on the weather, traffic, sports scores, upcoming calendar events, reminders about important emails and more. Throughout the day, when something was really important, I'd get a notification telling me about it — things like a stark change in the weather, an accident on my route to an appointment or breaking news.

Google Now used to be the start of my daily routine; now it's an afterthought, at best.

Now, my engagement with Google Now (ahem, feed) is sporadic and mostly disappointing. Swiping over on my home screen today shows me ... just a bunch of poorly-targeted news stories. Some based on things I like, others perhaps tangentially so, and many that are clearly jumping out on a limb to show me what's "trending" even though I have no interest in it. How did the once-wonderful Google Now turn into the same annoying throwaway feature as Samsung's Flipboard Briefing and HTC's News Republic in BlinkFeed?

Google Now no longer shows me a single piece of information on appointments, calendar events, commute times or anything of the sort. I rarely get reminders for upcoming events or bills or other information from Gmail. There's one small card with upcoming weather, but that's just about the easiest possible thing to show and is available anywhere.

A subset of these things has been moved behind an "upcoming" button — one that's found in different places depending on your phone and launcher — and even in here I don't get the same great layout of up-to-date information at a glance that I once had. It's not even close, actually. This was the reason to use Google Now, and it's relegated to a second press and a different interface, entirely removed from the spontaneity and immediacy of being right there next to my main home screen. The useful notifications, too, have disappeared. At best I'll get a reminder about a sports game starting or a big drop in a stock ticker I've searched. Sigh.

What the hell is Google doing with the Google Now feed? Ignoring it, as far as I can tell.

Google Assistant on the Google Pixel 2 XL

As Google Now dies a slow death, Google Assistant has of course taken the focus. Many of the core features of Google Now in terms of following what you do and what you like to tailor answers and information to you in particular is integrated into the new Assistant experience. It works across a variety of devices, with and without screens, and does so primarily with voice interactions — and that's precisely the reason why it can't replace Google Now in the way I used to love it. Google Assistant works great for a question and answer, or a short interaction with a couple of phrases — but the number of visual interactions are extremely limited, as are the ways that Assistant can "push" information to you when you need it.

The 'old' Google Now and new Google Assistant can work together in harmony — and that's what I want.

In many ways, the "old" Google Now was a far better assistant than Google Assistant is today. Today's version of Google Assistant is sitting there, waiting to help you when you ask it to — and it's ridiculously smart when you do. But a proper personal assistant does things before you ask, and has information waiting for you before you're ready to see it. Google Now may not know if you prefer coffee or tea in the morning, but it will prepare both before you're out of bed; Google Assistant knows your drink preferences, but it sits there and waits for you to wake up, shuffle into the kitchen and say "Google, make me some coffee" before it does anything. That's a key difference in user experience.

With how little the two services actually overlap, it wouldn't be a stretch to think that they could be put together on your phone. Bring back Google Now as it once was: a visual feed of super-useful information based on all sorts of data Google has about you and your habits. Stop pushing piles of useless news that I don't care about, or let me turn it off entirely. And take this renewed respect for how good Google Now was and put it dead-center with the Google Assistant's interface on my phone. When I talk to it, give me the Assistant's voice commands and knowledge base. But if I just want to scroll and see what's there for me before I even ask, let me have it in the same place.

Until then, I won't be using Google Now anymore.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • Agree 100% with you, Andrew.
  • Totally agree. Also, the "feed" doesn't seem to be playing nice with Chrome. It's locking up my Verizon Note8 when I click a link...
  • It would be acceptable IF they bothered to enroll all devices
  • Yes. You hit the nail on the head. Google, please take consideration for the early adopters who use most. We need our flagship to be a flagship.
  • "But a proper personal assistant does things before you ask, and has information waiting for you before you're ready to see it" Precisely. All this boasting about machine learning, natural language and troves of personal data I (willingly) supply, yet I feel I still have to fish for useful information. I'm really hoping 2018 is the year Google really brings all of this together. Or SOMEONE does.
  • I feel that the Assistant is trying to don't his but in a more interactive and focused way. Also, with more context and a bit of "conversation". Imagine how good the assistant will be in two years from now. What Google is doing is still 5-10 years ahead of Siri and Cortana.
  • Thanks for the article. Couldn't agree more.
  • Google Now was useless right from the start. I don't talk to my phone, so I couldn't care less about Google Assistant, Cortana, or Bixby on the phone. I enjoy my Echo devices, however, even if they don't know what I want before I ask for it.
  • If I can't say to my LOCKED phone, call Mom and get it to work then Voice Assistants are USELESS. Bixby won't do this on my S7. And neither will Google Assistant (although I understand it would on a Pixel). Moto Voice did on my Droid Turbo 2. For me, voice assistants and neural processing or whatever they call it is just a gimmic. Sure it's cool to ask my friends and families Echo what the weather is, but come on.... Further more, I am tired of being incessantly tracked and my every interaction with my tech recorded on a server somewhere by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung, etc. Give me the option to name my voice assistant whatever I want...I don't really want to say "Hey Google." Have to give Amazon credit for coming up "Alexa" versus "Hey Amazon." I did like my Moto Voice. I could name my phone anything I wanted. Sure it was more limited on what it did, however, the things it did do it did correctly!
  • I had it set up so I can use Bixby on my locked Note8. I don't remember how I did it, and I don't care. I think it involved a spoken password. I just don't have the desire to talk to my phone.
  • Also, by the way, you CAN say "Alexa, call mom" if you have Echo connect. I'm thinking about buying one. That would be useful, IMO.
  • I want to be able to say "Call Mom" when I'm out and about...not when I'm home. I have nothing against folks that want to purchase an Echo, but having a device in my house listening to my every word and sound is too creepy for me....
  • Sorry to burst your bubble. However, if you have any smartphone (Android or iOS or the ASOP variants) you have a device in your house listening in on you, unless you've taken precautions to disable microphone permissions for nearly every app, etc.
  • I think most folks are more or less accepting this fact for the trade-off of the value it brings to the table. I suppose this is a thing if you are a crazy conspiracy theorist. Contrary to many people's popular belief they are mostly normal, are not dealing in major drug trade or other illicit dealings, and have virtually nothing interesting to anyone that can hack and access the voice data captured by a device with a mic. But hey if you are running a drug cartel, sex business, money laundering scheme, or other highly illegal trade. You absolutely do not want any smart assistant or anything with a mic near anywhere your trade is discussed. If you have any concern about privacy you probably aren't using Google's products or Android anyways.
  • We've been trying to get our phones to dial mom unsuccessfully since at least 1991!
  • I can call someone with GA from my locked phone but I'm sure it has to do with smart lock being on.
  • I think you are confusing Google now with the assistants. It was exceptional curating content and giving alerts if you embraced the Google ecosphere.
    The echo devices were nice but in my opinion are lackluster in comparison to the home devices.
  • Google Now wasn't about talking at all. It was about the phone always displaying relevant information to you at all times. At a glance and for important things, as a notification. It did this very nicely! For example, of the stocks I monitor, if any stock went up or down a lot, it would show as a notification. Including on Android Wear. At the end of the day, it would display the closing index instead. All this is gone and for some 195 countries, there is no Assistant to replace it yet!
  • I've used to Google Now launcher for years and I never had the good experience you had, only your more recent experience. Google was always off with its traffic reminders, never gave me weather reminders and only gave me random stories that were nothing I was interested in. I like the launcher but the rest of it was never anything but annoying to me. Oh but it did recently give me a heads up on a flight delay for a flight that I didn't book, I only had a forwarded email so props for that.
  • Bixby's page is just as bad, if not worse. I'm not interested in anything it lists. I check now and then just to see if it improved, and it hasn't.
  • I get travel (commute) times, calendar/agenda items, recent orders with tracking, parking location, bills due, stocks, etc. All on the upcoming tab. Also get notifications of travel times prior to the time I leave for home.
  • Same thing I was about to say. I just checked mine (Using the Google Now integration in Nova Launcher) and have all the personal things you mention
  • This works for me, too... I just don't use it because it's buried in the app. I'd happily use it if I could have a shortcut to it or swipe over to it, but the Upcoming pane can't be swapped in to replace the news feed. The news feed is useless to me - I have feedly for my news, and it syncs what I've read between devices and makes it easy to dismiss articles I don't want to read.
  • This. This. 100% This. Google assistant is great. but Google now does different things from it, and shouldn't be allowed to wither and die. the "upcoming" tab was the worst thing that has happened to it.
  • I would be fine with the Upcoming tab if it was the primary tab instead of the news feed, and you could access it by swiping left on the home screen. That'd be useful. The current implementation is just awful compared to the Google Now of two years ago.
  • 100% spot on. I hope Google read this. I'll tweet it to them.
  • Google is like a hyperactive child, that easily gets distracted by "new" things and abandons features quickly
  • Maybe they're too busy with "diversity" to be able to focus on doing a proper job.
  • Shouldn't you be at a klan rally then?
  • Hes probably not a DemoKraut.
  • Totally agree. I've had the Google app on my homescreen for a while and it would basically bring up the Google Now feed. In the past few months, it's gone from very useful to absolute crap. Mostly, it shows me news articles and webpages that I've already read! I'll go read a few things on Jalopnik, then later that day, those same articles show up in my Feed. How useful is that? Great, you know what I like because it's stuff I've literally already searched out for myself. The other BS part is it doesn't listen to any of my recommendations. I have a few sports teams that I selected as favorites, so it gives me updates on when they play or what the score is/was. But it also shows video highlights, which I don't want to see. So I select options and click "stop showing video highlights". Next game comes along and guess what... more video highlights!! I've also done this with certain news topics that I don't want to see and they just keep coming back, but maybe loosely veiled as something else. Sad to see something so useful get lost in the clutter. I also agree that I don't want to talk to my phone or have my phone talk to me all the time.
  • I too get the score notifications. Trouble is they don't come through on time. I get a notification that the match has started about 20 minutes after it has kicked off. I rarely get score updates and the final score comes through about an hour after the game has finished. When I dismiss the notification 5 minutes later it will pop up again.
    The only time I have used OK Google was when I first got an android phone. I haven't used it at all since it changed to Hey Google.
  • Google alienated me with assistant when they turned off the"swipe away" feature, when you are finished reading a story. Yet, the swipe away feature is still present in the personal updates section. I agree, with all this AI and machine learning, how do I still have autocorrect messing up the words I type in my keyboard, sorry, Gboard?
  • Yeah I didn't have room in this article for another two paragraphs about removing the swipe. INFURIATING!
  • +1000000
  • Exactly this.
    The reason they removed swipe to dismiss on presented cards was to force interaction and siphon off your preferences (are you swiping because not interested in this subject, this news source?). Yet, they allow it in personal cards. Unreal.
  • If Google insists on pushing these targeted stories, move them to a second tab where we can choose view them. Keep calendar info, Gmail updates, sports, weather & traffic together.
  • This is almost exactly what they did, but they put the news feed first instead of the "Upcoming" tab. The Upcoming tab has most of the stuff we want, but it's buried in the app and can't be accessed by swiping left from the home screen... so we'll never see any of it. I wish the different tabs would just be made into widgets so we could use them on whatever launcher we liked, in whatever orientation we liked...
  • They pulled a Facebook...
  • I love it when people state opinions as facts.
  • Just like you did
  • His statement, as it reads, isn't an opinion. It would, indeed, be a fact.
  • You don't have a clue...opinion You don't have a clue about what I'm referring to... fact
  • I love when people are too dense or stupid not to be able to tell the difference.
  • "How did the once-wonderful Google Now turn into the same annoying throwaway feature as Samsung's Flipboard Briefing and HTC's News Republic in BlinkFeed?" You know Google has gotten pretty low when you have to compare it to the HTC Blinkfeed and Samsung's Flipboard.
  • Right on point. Google Now was one of the best features of Android.
  • Personally, still plenty useful to me. Still shows me relevant articles, scores etc based on my interests, usage, history etc
  • Agreed. I like the current format.
  • Preach it, brother! The feed crap is annoying. And Assistant is accomplishing the same purpose that GNow used to.
  • Welcome to the Google persistent beta program. Why complain as we all knew what we signed up for... We all know that by now that everything that Google starts will be deprecated and terminated within a few years in favor of a flashy new toy or in favor of no replacement at all. Its the Google way!
  • It sounds like you're complaining, so you should know the answer to your question: "Because we can!" Nothing wrong with a persistent beta program as far as I'm concerned, but beta usually implies free, and phones these days along with their service charges are expensive. On the plus side, not everything Google betas disappears. I've been using Project Fi for years, it's gotten better, they now have family plans and unlimited plans. The Nexus phones evolved into Pixels, I don't like the price but devices are nice. Yeah they get distracted, but they're generally alwys moving in the right direction.
  • It was dead as soon as they refused to update it to fix the traffic notifications. There was no easy way to turn them off, especially on Android Wear devices, without disabling ALL of Google Now. Every day, EVERY SINGLE DAY, I'd be driving home, already on the busy freeway and it would vibrate my watch with a notification WHILE I'M DRIVING that there's slowdown ahead. Well, no ****. I can see it. And of course the notification would be gone before I could find out what sent it.
  • You can actually go in and change what you get notified about in the Google app's settings now (at least, it's working for me on Oreo - don't recall if it was there on Nougat, so it might be a Notification Channels thing). Not sure if that'd really help in your case, though, or if it'd be worth it for the rest of Google Feed as it is now.
  • It was a mess and I disabled all possible notifications while still leaving Google Now on and it would STILL notify me. I went into every possible app and setting. It seemed it was only a thing when paired with Android Wear and Google Now together.
  • I look at the feed every day after work. It is like reading the evening edition. If they kill that then I will be very sad. I have yet to understand what the fuss is about assistant is. Seems the same as Google Now to me.
  • While I can understand the opinion, I disagree with the take. Google Feed gives me the listing of topics curated to my individual interest. I like that! The information in the former Google Now is still there just a tap away upcoming if I need to review it. IMO, it's even more useful than the previous version of Google Now.
  • I was never a big user of the feed, but recently it's actually gotten my attention more often and I've started checking it daily as well. Much like you my experience has been positive. I am not a long term user though, the OP seems like it compares what it functioned like in the past vs. now. Perhaps we missed out on the "golden age" of the Google Feed. Ignorance is bliss :)
  • I'm familiar with all the previous formats, including the most recent that Andrew is referencing. I just don't agree with the opinion that the current format is "useless". This particular article is rooted in his specific taste in UI, and that's cool since it is an opinion piece.
  • I've had Nexus phones since 2012, and the day Google Now debuted was the day I went to Nova. I'm all out on the "we'll make your life better/easier" thing.
  • "There are some people that if they don't know, you can't tell them.+
    - Louis Armstrong
  • I don't use assistant at all. I used Now very little but when that went away I just disabled assistant entirely. I don't even like that swipe left to get to whatever google calls that screen. I think it used to be the google now screen. (feed maybe?) it is all information that seems like I'd rather get elsewhere. Like I get weather and news from apps dedicated to those things. if I have packages or hotel information I need to check I use the email links I received. Assistant is just a glorified way for them to collect data on you. I just disable it which probably also has the effect of saving me some battery. I use Action launcher.
  • I agree Google Now used to be far more useful to me but I still like its news feed. I just wish they would fix the layout of the "more stories" view on tablets. The initial list of featured news renders adequately, if a bit randomly, on tablets but "More stories" renders in a strange narrow column along the left side of the screen. About 60% of the screen is simply blank. It's been that way for years, on every Android tablet I've ever owned. It drives me crazy that they've never fixed it.