Google Search 4.0.0 for iOS adds conversations, embarrasses Siri

Google Search 4.0.0 for iOS adds conversations, embarrasses Siri

Summary: Google's Search app just got smarter and it puts Siri to shame. The updated app is more conversational and inherits some new features from Google Now.

(Screenshots: Jason O'Grady)

The Google Search app (free, App Store) for iOS was updated today to version 4.0.0 with several new features. It's now more conversational, meaning that if you touch the microphone icon and say “Ok Google” – a feature borrowed from Google Now – the app will pay attention to several different queries in succession, rather than treating each like an individual Google Search. 

In the example posted in the release notes (see below), you can touch the microphone and say the following as three separate commands:

  1. "Ok Google" – to initiate a query
  2. "What's the weather like?" – resulting in today's weather, then
  3. "What about this weekend? – resulting in an extended weather forecast. 

Previously, you'd have to structure each as a unique search query, and the absence of the term "weather" in the second would flummox the app. 

The Google Search app also adopts other features from Google Now in the form of cards that appear that the bottom of the app related to previous search terms. In the right screenshot (above) you can see a card about The Avett Brothers, because I've previously searched for the band's tour dates. The updated iOS app also adds Cricket sports cards Google Now cards, faster load times and more fluid results from Google images. 

What's astounding is how far the Google Search app has come and how woefully inadequate Apple's built-in Siri has become. I've had the Google Search app on my iPhone and iPad's home screen for more that a year and I've relegated Siri to a glorified cooking timer - one of the few things that it does well.

Apple has a rocky history with Siri. It acquired Siri Inc. in 2010, removed it from the App Store, and released a sanitized version in 2011 alongside iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S. The new version of Siri was a crippled version of the independent app that had less features and Apple's been painfully slow in restoring features to Siri that were available prior to 2010. 

In March 2012 a class action lawsuit was filed against Apple on behalf of customers who felt misled about Siri's capabilities because it didn't provide features depicted in Apple's television commercials. In the commercials, Apple demonstrated Siri responding to questions with capabilities that weren't actually available in the product. (The lawsuit was later dismissed).

Then Apple chose corporate infighting over usability when it replaced Google with Bing as the default Siri search engine in iOS 7. Apple chose to "go thermonuclear" on Google because of its Android spat at the expense of usability for its customers. Luckily, you can still use Siri to search via Google if you append "Google" to your query. 

The icing on the cake for me happened back in March 2014 when I asked Siri a seemingly simple query: "When is Mother's Day?" to hilariously erroneous results:

Siri can't even get Mother's Day right! - Jason O'Grady
(Screenshot: Jason O'Grady)

Siri told me (multiple times, by the way) that "Mother's Day is on Sunday, March 15, 2015." Google Search (and even Windows Phone Cortana) got that one correct. Mother's Day was on May 11 this year. 

Until Apple figures out what to do with Siri, it doesn't even compare to the Google Search app.

Following are the release notes for Google Search 4.0.0:

With today’s update, you can ask questions with your voice & get updates on topics you care about.

Have a smarter conversation with Google:
• Tap the microphone or say “Ok Google” to start
• Ask questions such as “What’s the weather like?”
• Then follow up with “How about this weekend?”

At Google, we know the web well. With Google Now, we’ll tell you when there’s an interesting article for:
• Your favorite topics
• Your upcoming trips
• Your favorite authors and blogs

Smaller updates include:
• Cricket sports cards in Google Now
• Faster loading of Google Search and Google Now
• More beautiful and fluid image results

Topics: Apple, Apps, Google, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Google Apps

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Wouldn't Poison my iPad or iMac with anything Google....

    • You'd rather have a second rate service ...

      ... than risk blaspheming the Great God Apple?

      Weird religion, but hey, if it turns you on ....
      • "Study: iPhone owners have ‘blind loyalty’ and will buy anything Apple make

        "Study: iPhone owners have ‘blind loyalty’ and will buy anything Apple makes"
        you cannot beat the iSt*pidity and iLimitness :)
        Jiří Pavelec
    • Even when it's better?

      More fool you then!
    • Yeah and how's those mapping apps working out?

      And you probably wouldn't be one of the 27 million iPad users who have downloaded Office in the last 6 weeks either.

      Oh and I'm sure you wouldn't be one of the tens of miilions iPhone users with a gMail account? And of course your search bar has never been Googled.

      No, I understand completely. Your a nutcase. Fantasy before facts. Appearance before performance.

      Hey, some of us were around when the conversations like these were all about PC's vs Mac's. And it was the same way then as it is now. There were the blind Mac owners supporting a platform that wound up lagging so far behind that it almost killed the company. The parallels are obvious, at least to some. Keep up the good work. Maybe you'll succeed in killing Apple this time around. Just as the Mac innovated at first, it wound up being scraped off the floor only because of the success of the iPhone.

      Yeah, keep up the good work. Never criticize Apple or compliment a competitor. I think that's what they call a 'yes' man. Yeah, good things always happen to companies that have a bunch of 'yes' men around. Yes, that Siri is great! Yes, Bing maps are great. Yes, yes, yes.
    • Bu that's not what the company wants for their customers?

      Apple didn't state that it wanted to make it's customers experience the best? happens that some small parts are made by other companies.
  • Wow!

    Four hit pieces on Apple on the first two pages mixed in with Microsoft and Google "news" articles. ZDNet, you are outdoing even yourselves.
    • Not sure if this is the thread you wanted ...

      ... but actually, Microsoft items are by far the most frequent, lately, not Apple.

      I suspect they're spending more on PR at the moment. With good reason.
      • Oh, but of course it has to be PR

        because you know, the alternative is that MS actually makes good products, and that would mean everything you said has been wrong.

        Can't have that.

        "I see Windows everywhere - so it's obviously far from dead"
        • I see Windows everywhere...

          But mostly on buildings and cars, ... And the windows are made of various forms of glass, which is nonliving...

          And thus dead.

          • WOW, wasn't that clever...

            Your parents must be really proud LOL
  • What is you value to me today?

    Give me your thoughts
    that I might know you
    Tell me your wants
    that I might serve you
    Give me your trust
    that I might bind you
    Give me you all
    that I might own you

    But it wasn't evil! it just led there!
    • Re; What is you value to me today?

      So let me get this straight, you actually got to this point of evil because Google correctly answered that Mothers day is May 11? How did that happen? Did you record the answer and play it back in reverse? Can you be a little more specific? Did it say Steve was the walrus?
  • Garbage in, garbage out

    It wasn't the brightest question.

    15th March IS Mothers day in some countries.

    You need to be more specific, eg "When is mother's day in the US?" although Apple should've been more explicit in it's answer too, eg "Mother's day in is 15th March in your current location".
    User name *
    • Re; Garbage in, garbage out

      Your comments and the others from the Apple activists show exactly why Apple can get away with crap like Siri.

      OK professor. So let's see you back this statement up. Where exactly is/was Mothers day celebrated on Mar 15, 2014? Probably too much to ask for some facts or should I yell it as in show us the FACTS.

      Oh, and while you're getting that together, how about you telling everyone where Mothers day originated?

      And while you're at it perhaps you can explain why you feel it necessary to make such patently stupid remarks. Do you think ANY OF THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE who ask when Mothers day is ever qualify it with Mothers day in the US? Because I have had to ask that question more than once in my life and have heard it asked many times. And I have never been told to be more specific or as to what country I was talking about.

      So I ask again, where was Mothers day celebrated on March 15, 2014?
      • 2015 not 2014

        I didn't say '2014'. Can you see the screenshot at the top of the screen that says 'March 15, 2015'?

        Mothering Sunday is celebrated in Nigeria, the UK and Ireland on that date. I'd say, rough guess, that's about 200 millions people.

        You can get more information at
        User name *
        • so you point is...

          that siri is giving you a good answer, but can't detect what country you are in right now? You can see on the screenshot that it's connected to AT&T and Siri still give you the nigerian answer? Yeah, Siri is great.
          • Bingo!

            What is wrong with these iSheep? smh.
  • Siri probably picked up in his Irish sounding name...

    and thought he was referring to the old country.

    My point is that I don't like journalists twisting the truth to get a story. Too many times, they tell you half the facts to make it more dramatic. If he's never left the USA and all his location settings are for the USA than Siri has failed quite badly, but not hilariously.
    User name *
    • SIRI wans't standing for: Sound Input Recognition Interface?

      Now that i searched in the network i found: and now i dislike it, seems like a name put to appeal middle-age managers and yupies.