Theres been a lot of talk lately about how Google Now is Androids secret weapon in the mobile platform wars with iOS. If Siri is a digital assistanttaking your instructions, sending messages, and updating your calendarGoogle Now is more of a concierge, reminding you of that next appointment, checking the weather for you, and generally anticipating your needs. No good idea remains unexploited for long, though, and this week brought forth Osito, a free predictive intelligence iPhone app that offers many of the most prominent features of Google Now.
Osito wants to tie deeply into your phones services.
To do that job, though, Osito ties into a range of information already offered on your phone. Youll have to give it access to location services and to your calendar; youll also want to enable push notifications. Its not required that you give the app access to your Google account, though you may want to if you do any of your scheduling through Google Calendar. (The company promises to keep all of this data private.)
After youre tied into the app, Osito offers a number of services: It looks at your schedule, where your next meeting is at, and where youre located, then gives you a nudge when its time to get on the road to arrive on time at that event. If the weather is going to be wet, windy, or in any way unusual during that trip, the app alerts you to that, too. Similarly, if theres a traffic jam on your route, the app will let you knowoffering you new directions and the opportunity to alert any contacts at your destination that you might be late.
The app includes features for frequent travelers, as well, with the ability to check your flight status and book taxis to the airport, directly from Osito. If youve made a hotel reservation, the app will alert you twiceonce the day before check-in, and a second time as the user nears the hotel location. When youre done with a notification, just swipe to the right and it will be archived.
And, if thats not enough, the developers say they plan to add even more features to Osito in the near future.
Dont expect quick results: A users profile takes about a day to build.
All of this means, of course, that there are a lot of moving parts to the app: You cant just fire it up and expect it to start guiding you through your life. Ositos developers say that it takes the app about a day to build your profile before it can be expected to function properly.
Even then, the developers admit that the initial notifications can often come too early or too late to be truly helpful to a user, but they also add that such problems fix themselves over time. Thats because the app tracks your actual movements and refines your profile to figure out how long it typically takes you to arrive at certain locations.
One warning: Youll have to be somewhat specific in your own planning in order to make the app work properly. If you schedule a Meeting with Jim in your calendar, for example, you might not ever receive an alert. Instead, you have to name a locationprobably by its address, though Osito says that using a place name (Sprout Café, for example) will often do the trickin order to ensure you receive timely, useful alerts.
As you may have guessed, Ositos functions seems oriented mostly toward commuters and executives who spend a lot of time on the go. If your schedule or routine is fairly clutter-free, or if you stick close to home in most of your daily doings, Osito wont offer you much you cant already gain from a quick look at the iPhones native Calendar and Weather apps. And certainly, its list of features isnt quite as lengthy as whats offered by Google Now. For many iPhone users, though, Osito might prove the best defensefor nowagainst the temptation to go buy a Galaxy phone.