Well it finally happened. The mighty Google machine may have woken up to the potential of tying together all the disparate strands of their empire and come up with a new app that could one day become an indispensable part of our lives.
The new Google Keep app and online service is not a new concept, the people at Evernote.com have been providing this kind of universal data capture service for a while now, and very effectively. But they’re not Google, which is an important point. The power of Google Keep (GK) comes from the fact that it nicely dovetails the mobile Android world with the web based online Google services world, and because of that we could see a massive shift in the way we deal with our everyday tasks and needs.
On the face of it, GK is nothing more than a simple task and to-do list manager. Install the app to your Android smartphone (iPhone users can currently only access the service from their web browser and Google Drive account) and you can instantly start to build reminders, take instant notes with or without photos from your camera and generally keep track of things which are important to you.
The key thing is these notes are instantly available on your Google Drive, so they can be accessed from any computer in the world via a standard web browser. The other thing that’s important is the voice note functionality. The Google team has made sure that the voice to text works brilliantly, which means no more laborious typing, just speak and the text is transcribed in real time and stored as a reminder. Perfect for on the fly notes in the car or other occasions when it’s too cumbersome to type anything.
Now add in the fact that your universal Google account, along with the fantastic search functionality is also a part of the deal, and you can see how this could also be a phenomenally great way to keep an archive of information that is permanently on tap…and which is dated and editable. Again this is not new, but the fact that it is tied in with your existing Google account makes it potentially hugely powerful.
Right now it’s just the first baby steps of the app, so there’s no handwriting recognition (sadly for Galaxy Note and tablet users) and there’s no image recognition as with Evernote, which means you can’t search for text inside images and pick up relevant results. But these features are just a version release away, and it can’t be long before these things are added.
But it’s when you consider the ability of the app to link in with Google’s calendars and email that things start to become really interesting. It’s not hard to imagine a time when your phone acts as a simple central control panel for all of your life, using voice recognition and transcription, at which point it’s easy to see Google Keep as the lynch pin in the process. Take a note for an appointment in 30 days time, at a particular restaurant? No need to go into multiple apps or websites to sort out all the details, just note it down in Google Keep once, and the app will synchronize the maps for navigation, your calendar for the reminder and store images of the location for easy location. All with one command.
Google Now already offers a good slice of this functionality in terms of search and timetables, but it doesn’t really integrate real time personal tasks and to-dos in the way GK does. It’s the ability to tie it all together that we think is so exciting. The big problem is Google now has something of a credibility problem with many users after shutting down Google Reader. It’s going to be interesting to see if they can get people to trust them with their data again, or whether users will just stick with Evernote and avoid the possibility of losing their archives down the line if Google decides to shutter the service in another Spring clean.
In the meantime though, it’s definitely a great little app, with a very intuitive interface and a bunch of cool features (e.g. the color coding of data sets is a nice touch, again not new, but nicely implemented) and a superb voice feature which works to make the app easy to use. Definitely one to watch. Closely.