Apple preparing to launch Google Now rival on iOS 9

After years of quiet development, Apple is planning a major new update in iOS 9 to its virtual assistant service. Code-named ‘Proactive’, it will be a natural evolution to the Spotlight platform, with integration across all of Apple’s services and third party apps.

The result will be a Google Now rival service, capable of taking information from all sorts of platforms and offer it inside an easy-to-use service. It will include contextual information based on time of day, location and friends nearby, alongside other information like the best route home, traffic to work and miscellaneous information.

Apple has been expanding its portfolio of small developer teams, offering integration between platforms. Most of these acquisitions went into building Proactive, seen as the key to Apple’s virtual assistant program that was missing when Siri first launched.

It is not clear if Siri and Proactive will be separate apps, or work together. Considering there are plans to update Siri with a new ‘Breadcrumbs’ feature, we suspect they will work as one, meaning Proactive is an update to the Siri platform.

Breadcrumbs is a new API for Siri capable of utilising third-party apps to connect with Proactive. This means third-party notifications can be displayed at relevant times and using Apple’s own API should mean notifications will be consistent with the first-party apps.

Contextual information is extremely valuable and if Siri is capable of offering information and actions that mean something to the user, it could enhance the amount of time spent on the iPhone.

Apple executives are worried this big of an update on iOS 9 will ruin its plans to improve performance and stability, leading to some suggestions of a staggered rollout. It is not clear how staggered, whether it will add iterative updates every few months, or if some features will be held off until iOS 10 in 2016.

Updates to Apple Maps, Apple Pay and Apple Watch are also expected on iOS 9, which Apple will unveil at WWDC.