I've always had a hard time staying on schedule during business trips, which usually include multiple meetings in various locations. If I had my way, I'd bring along an assistant. On a recent trip to Denver, I tried the next best thing: two new mobile apps, Google Now and Cue.
Google Now, which comes loaded on smartphones and tablets running the new Android 4.1 operating system, works with Google Calendar, Maps, and searches, along with your device's GPS. I tested it on Google's Galaxy Nexus phone. During the day, I could touch the Google search bar on my home screen to see "cards" with timely information.
Before I left my hotel, Google Now served up a card with the weather forecast for Denver. As I drove downtown, a card appeared with information on a nearby bus route. Later that day, I received a reminder for a 3 p.m. meeting one hour in advance, along with a map, directions, and an estimated driving time of 55 minutes based on current traffic. I hustled out the door and arrived just in time. Thanks, Google Now.
After two days, the software got smarter. Each morning, for instance, it provided an estimated driving time from my hotel to downtown Denver. As I headed back to my hotel around dinnertime, it pulled up cards with details on nearby restaurants, including links to a map, directions, and reviews. Not quite an assistant, but close.
On the second half of my trip, I tried Cue, a free app for iPhones. Unlike Google Now, Cue is not location based. Instead, it organizes your daily schedule by scanning information in linked apps on your phone. The free version of Cue lets you choose from more than a dozen apps, including Gmail, Google Calendar, and OpenTable (for dinner reservations). You can also pony up $4.99 a month for a premium account that you can link with business-friendly apps, including Salesforce and Evernote.
When I added an appointment with a Denver start-up to my Google Calendar, it appeared on my Cue schedule in about 10 minutes, along with the location and name of the marketing director who e-mailed the meeting invitation. When I received a FedEx shipping confirmation in Gmail, the tracking number and a link to FedEx.com popped up on my schedule. Cue handles flight confirmations the same way. The level of detail was impressive, but I missed the maps and real-time traffic updates. In fact, I was late to some appointments because of traffic.
The bottom line: If you spend a lot of time on the road, Google Now is great. If you're looking for a scheduling app that works with a variety of programs, Cue is the way to go. For me, there was a clear winner: Google Now, you're hired.
Available for: Android 4.1 smartphones and tablets
Works with: Google Calendar, Maps, and searches
Available for: iPhones
Works with: More than 20 mobile apps, including Gmail
Cost: Free for a basic version, then $4.99 a month