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Getting Started with the Google Ecosystem for the iPhone

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The Google app is a mashup of a personal digital assistant and a browser. The browsing capabilities aren’t as good as Chrome. Think of the Google app as way to quickly lookup information such as weather, sports scores, web searches and directions. It can also discover places of interest near you, such as restaurants in your proximity. Reminders can even be set by voice command. Unfortunately, the Google app isn’t a fully functioning PDA. It can’t schedule appointments for you. You can, however, use Siri to schedule an appointment in Calendar and this can automatically be synced over to Google Calendar. We’ll explore Google Calendar in another article in this series.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll go through a quick example highlighting the inter-app capabilities of the Google ecosystem. Tap on the microphone icon on the Google app and say “how do I get to the White House”. A screen with directions will appear. Tap on the “START” button to continue. The app will prompt you that it wants to open Google Maps. Tap “Open” to continue. If this is your first time using Google Maps, you’ll have to accept the legal agreement. Next, allow Google Maps to use your location. You will see another disclaimer that Google Maps Navigation is in beta. Accept this to proceed. Don’t worry, these messages will only pop up the first time you use these apps. You will now see a familiar GPS navigation user interface. You could use this navigation system to drive all the way to the White House. You probably won’t want to do this right now. Notice the link back to Google on the top left of the screen. Tapping this link will bring you back to the Google app.

This was just a brief demonstration of the Google ecosystem. We just examined the essence of how Google’s apps can work together. It’s actually quite elegant and there are different ways to get things done. You could just open Google Maps and speak your request for directions. If you are already using the Google app, jumping to another Google app is often as easy as speaking a command.

This article is one in a series of articles detailing how to replace Apple’s stock apps with Google apps. Other articles in this series will explore how to replace Calendar, Photos, iTunes, iWork, Music and just about every Apple app with its Google counterpart. I think you’ll see, for the most part, Google’s apps offer better stability and features. In many cases, I find them to be more aesthetically pleasing. Google’s Calendar app for the iPhone is absolutely gorgeous and a pleasure to use. With a little effort, you can have the best of both worlds — the best apps running on the best phone.

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