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Google Now comes to iPhone, challenging Apple's Siri

Google apps are shown on an Apple iphone 5 in this photo illustration in Encinitas, California, April 16, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Google apps are shown on an Apple iphone 5 in this photo illustration in Encinitas, California, April 16, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc is bringing its Google Now technology to the iPhone, where it will compete head-on with Apple Inc's Siri to serve as the primary service that smartphone users rely on to get everything from weather updates to traffic forecasts.

Google Now, which made its debut last year on mobile devices powered by Google's Android operating system, will be available as a feature in the new version of the Google Search app for iPhones and iPads starting on Monday.

Personal assistant technology such as Apple's Siri, Google Now and products created by various start-up companies aspire to play what could become a critical role on smartphones by helping users with daily chores such as looking up information on the Web, handling calendar appointments and managing travel plans.

Some analysts believe Apple's Siri, which comes pre-loaded on iPhones and iPads, represents a growing threat to Google, the world's No. 1 search engine. The information that Siri provides on common topics such as sports scores and nearby restaurants reduces the need to visit Google's search engine, the analysts say.

Johanna Wright, Google's vice president of Search and Assist for Mobile, described Google Now as the next phase in the evolution of search, in which answers are served up without a user needing to type in a query.

The technology taps into Google's various online services, from Web search to personal Gmail email and Google Calendar entries, to deliver relevant information throughout the day in pop-up windows that Google refers to as "cards." By accessing an email with a flight itinerary, for example, Google Now can automatically remind a traveler about an upcoming trip and suggest the best time to leave for the airport based on current traffic conditions.

Unlike the Android version of Google Now, in which users can swipe the phone's homescreen to quickly access the pop-up cards, the version for Apple's iOS will only display these cards when a user has opened the Google Search app.

The smartphone has emerged as a key battleground between Google and Apple as consumers increasingly access the Web with mobile devices instead of personal computers.

In September, Apple replaced the Google Maps app that once came pre-loaded on iPhones with a new maps app that Apple created in-house. The Apple maps service contained embarrassing errors, drawing fierce criticism from consumers and reviewers and forcing Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook to offer a public apology.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Richard Chang)

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