While Apple has made some iconic devices over the years, sometimes the software side lags a little, and its Siri virtual assistant may be the most prominent example. In particular, she defaults to the Bing search engine and Apple Maps for directions, and she can have a hard time understanding what you say. If you want to use Google's search and map tools, the Google app is right up your alley.
iOS users get easier access to Google search: With the Google app installed, you can say "Hey Siri, open the Google app," and then say "Hey Google" to begin using the Google search AI (or you can type your search query if you don't want to look weird by talking at your phone).
Note that the Google app and the Google Assistant app do different things on iOS. The Assistant is an AI that you can have a conversation with like Siri, while the Google app is more like a conventional web search tool that happens to support speech recognition. That said, the Google app does have a few extra tricks that blur the line (see below).
Customizable and personalized feed for news, reminders, and personal updates: There's a wealth of info below the search bar. You can get weather, a news feed, and sports scores all based on your past search history and selected topics. This info is displayed in a series of cards that you can scroll through pretty much endlessly, and each card has a three-dot button that you can tap on to change that card or remove it altogether.
For example, the weather report can be toggled between Fahrenheit or Celsius , you can hide the weather card if you don't care about that info, or you can tell Google to never give you weather updates at all. If it's a news story, you can tell Google to not show you cards for that topic or from that specific website, or you can elect to follow that site and share the story. To add topics, tap on the gear icon in the upper left, tap Feed, and tap on Follow Topics. On this next screen, you can search for specific subjects or tap on the grid of icons to browse. When you're finished, tap Done in the upper right to return to the app's main screen.
The Google Chrome browser is embedded into the app: When you tap on a card or search result that opens a web page, this happens within the app, via a streamlined version of Google Chrome. From there, you can tap on the address bar and go wherever you want on the web, and the bottom of the screen has forward and back buttons, the iOS share button (which also lets you open the page in Safari or Chrome), a shortcut to your other Chrome tabs. The Google logo in the middle returns you to the app's main screen.
If you drag up from the bottom of the screen, you will receive a card containing a Google search result based on keywords that the app has identified on the web page that you're looking at. From there, you can swipe to the right to get a horizontal feed of more related results. Tapping on any of those opens the result within the embedded browser, and the set of cards then changes accordingly, allowing you to surf through the topic for as long as you like.
Of course, it's not nearly as robust as the standalone Google Chrome app, but if you just want to get in and out, integrating Chrome into the Google app makes that go more smoothly.
Can't be used from your lock screen on iOS: With an Android device, you can say "Hey Google" in its vicinity to make it wake up and do things based on your voice commands, like setting a timer or alarm, dictating a text message, playing a song, checking your calendar, or defining and translating words. Your voiceprint itself can be the key that unlocks your phone or tablet. But on iOS devices, the lock screens belong to Siri, and she sometimes has difficulty understanding you when you ask her to open the Google app (and she won't unlock your screen -- that requires a passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID). Even if you already have the Google app open, it's blocked from hearing you if the screen is locked.
Apple's intent is understandable; they want to protect the device from unauthorized access by keeping iOS exclusively in control of the lock screen. But because of Siri's shortcomings with speech recognition and speech synthesis, reliance on this can be frustrating despite the greater security.
The Google app's functionality is held back somewhat by Apple's security restrictions on iOS, but its search function, embedded browser, and news feed combine to make it an unexpectedly capable gateway between you and the Internet.