Think those personal assistant apps are really free? Here’s the true cost

People enjoy having the small things in life taken care of for them. It’s nice knowing that when you pick up your smartphone, what you wanted to know is already on the screen waiting for you or that the flight you were scheduled for got canceled but thanks to having loaded your credit card information into the app ahead of time it was able to reschedule you another flight close to the same time as your canceled flight. Boy, life is sure grand now that we have these kinds of assistants running our lives for us and we don’t even have to pay them a compliment.

That’s the one thing you get to do for free. These apps though, in exchange for your personal habits, information, credit card numbers, social media connections, and photos, actually cost a lot if you actually wanted some privacy. The reason these apps are free in the first place is because the companies who make them are banking off the millions of pieces of data you feed these apps everytime you are around your phone or connect them to any service it requests (i.e., facebook, twitter, instagram, any online calendar, email, etc). You are giving all these apps personal and private information in exchange for using the app for free. Google Now and S Voice are some of the more popular personal assistants that people enjoy using. In order to use them you have to be signed into the service all the time. This means that your phone is recording everything around it all the time including the number of people in a room, temperature, motion, placement, and many other things that Google and Samsung have probably not told us.

Contextual Computing is basically what these types of services are called. They analyze information based on it’s location, or context, in which the phone is used. For example, if you leave the house everyday at 8 am and check the traffic, it will know to bring that up for you around that time just when you are getting near the door. Pretty nice, huh? But you just feed that app thousands of pieces of personal information that Google, or whatever other company’s app you use, can process and data mine to figure out how to sell to advertisers, because when it all comes down to it, what good is all this information for? Advertisers, plain and simple. Imagine if the world used this information for good instead of evil? Which ironically enough is the motto of Google, “Don’t be Evil.”

You cannot deny that these apps have made our lives a whole lot easier to manage, especially if you are a mom who has to manage your partner’s schedule and children’s after-school programs. These apps are especially helpful in knowing when to schedule events and how to get around places the fastest. Whether you like it or not these apps are coming preinstalled on most smartphones now and are in use the second you use your phone. So whether you are interested in jumping on board now or later, because eventually you will have to in order to manage the social milieu that the future will bring us, it’s better to start understanding how they work and how to use them because life will only get more complex now that technology will be something we will all wear everyday. Don’t worry that self-drying Jacket from Back to the Future 2 is just around the corner.

Pretty soon what you wear will be telling you more about you than you knew about yourself

Here are a few popular digital assistants to try out

Google Now

S Voice (preinstalled on Samsung devices)



Aviate (Invite Only)

Mynd (Requires access to lots of personal information and apps on your phone)

EasilyDo (Requires access to lots of personal information and apps on your phone)


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