Google launched Google Now just over five years ago as part of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It has evolved over the years to be smarter and more useful, but Google’s energies are now focused elsewhere. After the flop of Google Now on Tap, the company pulled back on the “Google Now” branding. Today, Google Now is officially being relaunched as the Google feed. It looks the same on the surface, but there are a few important tweaks.
The feed is accessible in the Google app on Android and iOS. It’s also available on the far left home screen panel for Android users on the Pixel Launcher, Google Now Launcher, or a few other stock launcher implementations. The Google Now branding disappeared late last year, which is when Google started referring to this screen as the feed. It never really emphasized the change, though. As a result, everyone still calls this Google Now.
With Google Now, most of the cards were based on your data from Gmail and search. Now, the feed will be based mostly on news that Google thinks you’ll be interested in. Google will also list related stories for controversial items, making it easier to fact check. News cards are still going to be based on your account data, but Google is also throwing in some trending and local items. The items that pop up in your feed will still be based on your interests. Should you get something you don’t want in the feed, you can tell Google that and it’ll adjust the algorithm.
You can also tell Google about specific things you want to follow in your feed. You can do this in the settings, but also from search results. Look for a Follow button that appears when performing certain searches. Tap that, and you’ll begin getting relevant news in your feed. The cards in your feed have search terms attached as well. That makes it easier to know how they’re connected to your subscriptions and interests. Tapping on the search term at the top drops you right into a Google search so you can find more information.
It’s unclear right now if the new feed will contain any of the smart features from Google Now that were based on account data. For example, the card that tells you when you need to leave for an appointment or automatic package tracking from your emails. It would be a shame to lose those features, but Google’s machine learning interests have clearly shifted elsewhere.
The new feed is rolling out today in the US on Android and iOS. It will launch internationally in the coming weeks.