10 tips and tricks to master the Google app for iPhone

Google's app does a lot more than search, especially if you're a heavy user of the company's services

google app iphone
Credit: Derek Walter
Get your Google on

Google’s iPhone app is way more than a conduit to Google search—it’s the hub for Google’s shadow operating system, which essentially lets you cheat on Apple and live a more Googly smartphone life.

The app does a lot of things well. For starters, it gives you rapid-fire access to Google search and has a clever widget that draws you in with trending updates. So, whether you’re all-in with the company’s services or if you’re just a casual Google services user who didn’t even know Google had a standalone app, there’s a lot to unpack and discover. Read on to unwrap all the goodies that Google has to offer. 

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google stream pages
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Get to know the feed

The Google app is the home for suggested articles and updates that Google thinks you’ll be interested in. What populates your feed comes from your search history, location, Gmail, and other sources tied to your account.

Your feed has links to popular categories, like weather, sports, and entertainment, and you’ll also see a stream of cards that have articles, updates, and other information that Google thinks you want to know. If something isn’t up your alley, just swipe the card away. Or touch the overflow menu (three vertical dots at the top right) and tell Google you’re not interested in the topic.

The Upcoming feed on the right fills in details you may need for the day, like directions to an upcoming appointment or stock updates. It’s hit and miss in terms of how useful it is at times, so keep an eye on what it offers.

google app 3d touch
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Get to know 3D Touch

Google has done an excellent job at implementing 3D Touch capabilities into its app. (Sure, Google has its own operating system, but it usually fully embraces what iOS offers.)

The 3D Touch menu is especially useful for a rapid search—just tap Quick Search. This will bring you right to the search bar without needing to wait for the feed to load. Additionally, there’s a “trending on Google” widget that floats different topics that are getting a lot of eyeballs on search.

This is Google, so the feature set is going to regularly change. Keep an eye on it to see what else new pops up.

google app weather
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How's the weather?

Weather is a logical place for Google to use its “organize all the world’s information” powers. You can type “weather” in the search box or press the persistent weather card that shows up in your feed to get the upcoming forecast.

There isn’t as much data as you’d find in dedicated weather apps, but it’s enough to give you a good snapshot of the days ahead. And you can’t go wrong with an app that puts in a happy, little frog riding a bicycle. Froggie’s actions will change based on the forecast, so if you find him under an umbrella or on the beach you’ll have an idea of how the day may turn out.

google app sports
Credit: Macworld
The sports report

One advantage of using the Google app for sports info is that you can get a quick update on a particular team or tournament, whereas sports apps can sometimes put that information behind too many layers.

Just type or speak a favorite team using voice search and you’ll get the results. Or head over to settings by tapping your name at the top left and navigating to Feed > Sports > Teams. You can then add in teams from just about any major professional and collegiate league.

If you don’t want spoilers, you can turn off alerts so you don’t accidently find out the score if you have it waiting on the DVR back home. Google keeps adding details and options to the sports section all the time, so keep checking back on it.

multitasking
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Multitask like a pro

This feature brings a few drops of Android to iOS. Touch the cards icon at the top right of the screen, and you’ll be able to cycle through your past actions. They’re all formatted as separate cards, which is a hallmark of Google’s Material Design.

Just like with iOS multitasking, swipe away a card you don’t need anymore; or, keep scrolling until you see the “Clear All” command at the top-right of the screen, and tap that to start afresh. It’s helpful to head back to a previous search if you’re trying to remember the details.

google settings
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There are A LOT of settings

A first look at the settings may be a little overwhelming, because you can find just about anything to tweak. It’s packed in here, but it’s worth spending some time so you can customize the app the way you want to.

In this section, tell Google what you want to see in your feed, which type of alerts you want to receive, and if you want to share your location. It’s the classic Gogle dilemma—the more information you share about yourself, the better the service you get in return ... yet over time it may get to know you a little too well for your own good.

google app my trips
Credit: IDG
Keep track of your trips

If you use Gmail for all your travel confirmation emails, then Google will create an itinerary of your upcoming trip. To see the details, do a voice or text search for “my trips” and it’ll pop up in the Google app.

If you’re not sure what to do when you get there, you can use Google for suggestions about events or things to see. It’s part of the company’s bigger push into travel, which culminates in the Google Trips app.

incognito mode
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Go Incognito

Google doesn’t have to know about your search history—just tap your profile picture at the top left and select “Turn on incognito” to search in stealth mode. When you do this, none of your searches are saved to your Google account.

It doesn’t shield your IP address or fully protect you from nefarious websites, but it’s a way to keep some things off the record.

voice search
Credit: IDG
Ask away

Google’s app does a good job with voice search, letting you use natural language to get answers to quick questions or conducting a more thorough web query. Google Assistant hasn’t arrived on iOS yet, but expect Google to expand its reach.

In the meantime, you can launch a voice search inside the app by tapping the microphone or using one of the options in the 3D Touch menu.

google doodle
Credit: IDG
Get the Google Doodle

Sometimes, you just need some fun and games. The Google Doodle that shows up on Google’s homepage from time to time will also appear inside the Google app; tap it to learn more or to play the animation that Google will sometimes throw in.

Be on the lookout for other Easter eggs that will occasionally appear, as Google loves to mix things up.