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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14 comments

    1. I’ve heard great things about the Pixel, and if you value customization, Android’s the way to go. I prefer the graphics and multimedia capabilities of the iPhone and iPad. For example, there’s nothing quite like GarageBand on other mobile platforms.

    1. I still use an old iPad 2 and Safari is completely unusable. It crashes constantly. I did a factory restore on it (which really improved performance) and Safari still crashes constantly. Chrome is better, but since they are forced to use WebKit, it is also a bit unstable. It can’t be resource limitations. I’m able to play games, use GarageBand and iMovie, and it still performs quite well. It’s hard to justify buying a new iPad just so I can have a working browser. Everything else I use it for works fine.

      I also use Chrome on my Mac, and there’s a huge difference. Chrome is stable and it renders web pages based on the window size. Safari just doesn’t render web pages right. Beyond the sizing issue, a lot of elements just don’t look right.

      Apple doesn’t dedicate a lot of resources to the web, because that’s Google’s domain. Apple wants people to use apps. I think it’s silly to get an app for every website you visit, but that’s their vision. After all, you will need to shell out for more storage space, and they take a cut of app revenues.

    1. I use Chrome on my iPad and iPhone. I prefer it to Safari. Unfortunately, if you use the stock Apple apps, they will invoke any link in Safari. It’s all the more reason to move to Google’s apps.

      That said, Chrome is restricted, by Apple, to use the WebKit rendering engine. This means that it basically has to use “Safari guts” to render web pages. I really wish Apple would allow other web rendering technologies. Chromium is far superior to WebKit.

  1. Yeah, Google is baked right in and looks like pure vanilla Android runs as smooth as iOS.

    My dream is an Apple Google correlation to make an iGoogle phone.

    1. I concur. I wish Apple would focus on devices and leave the software to others. They should let Google handle mail, browsers and other apps. Microsoft is great with office productivity software. (No one uses iWork.) I think Apple makes some good operating systems, but their apps are horrible.

    1. I agree. Google is great with handling large sets of data, which gives them an edge with services and apps. Apple is kind of sloppy with their stock apps. The only one that’s decent is GarageBand. Every other stock Apple app is just not very good. I found Apple Music to be simply horrible. I currently use Google Play Music.

    1. I’ve actually written quite a few articles about the Google ecosystem on Apple devices (iPhone, Apple TV). I haven’t created the cornerstone (index) page for them yet. Thanks for reminding me!

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