Catching Siri: An in-depth look at voice command apps on Android
- Marketed it to the max - This is where Apple shines, and it has done it again with Siri. Google has had Voice Actions on Android for about 2 years now, and even before that there was always the Vlingo app. Siri even started out life as an app on iOS, but Apple bought it, integrated it, and has marketed it as the premier feature of the iPhone 4S. Whereas, many Android users probably still don't even know that Voice Actions exist.
- Used natural language - As we have said, Apple was not the first to put voice commands or dictation to market, but bringing together the natural language AI of Siri with the voice recognition power of Nuance has created an elegant solution that can speed up many mundane tasks.
- Anthropomorphized the iPhone - People tend to feel awkward having a one-sided voice interaction with their phone, but Siri mitigates that issue by replying to requests with a voice of its own. Add on the wit and snark - the personality - and it feels more like interacting with a person than a device.
Inherent advantages and disadvantages of Android apps over Siri
As we said, Siri was not the first voice command app to hit the mobile ecosystem, but as is often the case with Apple products, Siri took systems that worked "well enough" before and made it into something that connects with people rather than just works. The other big thing that Siri did was disintermediate Google from the search equation. Often, this works well because of integration from Wolfram Alpha and other services, but there are things that are flat out missing from Siri. One big thing is that location-based searches don't work in some regions (like Canada), whereas location based searches on Android are always funneled through Google Maps, which has most of the world covered. Additionally, Google is just more reliable than Siri right now. There have been a number of prolonged Siri server outages since its release, whereas we have never heard of an outage with the Google speech servers, and the only time we couldn't contact Google servers was when we had no data connection.
A disadvantage to most of the Android options is that they are almost all built on Google Voice Search speech recognition, so, aside from any issues you may have with Google's recognition accuracy, almost all of the apps we tested will not work unless you have Google Voice Search installed. The only exception to that rule is Vlingo, which of course predated Google Voice Search (and Siri of course) on mobile platforms, and uses its own speech recognition software on the back end. Additionally, most Android options for voice command are still based on limited keyword and keyphrase sets. Siri mimics natural language recognition by accepting a far wider array of keywords and phrases, and most Android options have yet to catch up on that, though they are trying.
1. cncrim (Posts: 530; Member since: 15 Aug 2011)
Apple need something to market it with...... 4s. Can't impresstion camera or processor and App Store is getting old, so something diffirent is Siri.
2. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
Oh don't worry, I wasn't expecting people to bother reading this before commenting. I just hope you shared the link!
7. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
Sorry, I just find it rude. I spent a lot of time working on this piece, and someone has to chime in 4 minutes after it's posted with a comment? Show some respect. That's all I ask
43. robinrisk (unregistered)
Michael, you make the best articles on this site!
Every article that isnt just news, but actuallysomethought and reflection always has your name, and you write very well.
52. saiki4116 (Posts: 358; Member since: 31 Mar 2011)
really an awesome article...whenever i see an article by Micheal H,I am pretty sure it is well worked out article with critical reasoning and sufficient information to back it up...
72. rendHELL (Posts: 304; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)
We read it at work and we all liked it... Keep on making great articles like this... keep up the good work!!..
76. nghtwng68 (Posts: 81; Member since: 26 Nov 2009)
Don't let that HATER (cncrim) ruin a great and informative article. The entire mobile community appreciates you bro on this write up and many others.
Keep it up and forget that fool.
6. protozeloz (Posts: 5379; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)
Of topic: you think IO might have being moved to allow them to present a new assistant app with more powerful tools? I mean Google seem to be more interest in finding out about the way you speak rather than what you are saying could it have a deeper meaning ?
Nice article. I still kinda like Jeanie the most tho
8. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
I think Google definitely can put out a very compelling product as far as features. Google has a ton of data on how we ask for things, so it could make that quite a bit better. Personality has never been Google's strong suit tho...
10. remixfa (Posts: 14059; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)
who has more data on us than google? lol.
i love google and most of the stuff they do, but they need a stronger advertising department.. lol. or at least some beta testing where we are allowed to rate the products on certain credentials and give our input. group think google project.. has a nice ring to it. :)
BTW, michael, i almost fell out of my chair when i read your retort. lol its rude to blind comment, but that was straight up funny. :)
16. protozeloz (Posts: 5379; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)
I think they can do an outstanding job if they put their mind to it, there are so many things they could do to boost "assistance" at least make one that tries to actually understand you and acomodate your life rather than being commanded to do so. this smartphone world needs another good shaking its being a bit boring lately, and a true assistant could do the trick
24. speckledapple (Posts: 879; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
you got a point. Google has just as much as Apple in terms of data, to a point much much more. Finding uses for that data is where they need to become crisp at. I use Vlingo and it does me just fine in terms of voice control. Better than what my previous blackberry had before. You were right though. Advertising (with so many vendors) and ability are things that need work.
32. Synack (Posts: 668; Member since: 05 Jul 2011)
To be honest Michael, we don't really want or need Siri. Apple is TELLING the world that they need Siri but in fact only 1% of people will talk to their phones. I have yet to see one person use Siri. Most people tell me they just shut the bitch off because it interferes with the things they do.
36. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
I've said exactly that in other pieces (and it's also why the first thing I mention in this piece is FlexT9). I think gesture keyboards are much more useful. Maybe I live in a noisy place, but I don't find many times when I CAN talk to my phone, let alone want to.
38. firelightx (Posts: 71; Member since: 13 Oct 2011)
On the flip side, when I showcase Google\'s Voice Search and how cleanly it can send quick text messages, the customers I deal with light up.
Then again, Voice Search doesn\'t talk to you. It just does what you ask. It\'s more function than fluff. And that\'s why it stands as my favorite to this day.
Although I keep Speaktoit installed for any Siri fanatic who wants to have an iPhone vs. Android argument with me.
44. robinrisk (unregistered)
IMHO i think the same thing. There are a few situations where its nice to have voice interactions, like when you´re too drunk to input anything on the keyboard, or when you´re in a quiet room, but google voice actions does it for me.
All other assistants are just Hype, or might work for other people, i dont want to generalize.
60. bossmt_2 (Posts: 437; Member since: 13 Oct 2009)
When you're too drunk to text it's your body's way of stopping you from making a bad decision.
62. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
I was going to say, if you're too drunk to text, I wouldn't expect voice recognition would work all that well either.
67. Larry_ThaGr81 (Posts: 294; Member since: 26 May 2011)
Sounds more like a individual regardless of their title stating some facts and voicing their personal opinion, but nothing more.
42. abdane (Posts: 477; Member since: 07 Oct 2011)
the best siri-like app on android is JEANNIE !!!
66. Larry_ThaGr81 (Posts: 294; Member since: 26 May 2011)
Jeannie is cool, but you must have that confused with Voice Actions Plus, the paid version of Jeannie.
70. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
It's essentially the same app, the paid version is just a bit faster and wittier.
4. remixfa (Posts: 14059; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)
you have given me some new ideas for apps to play with. thanks. Ive used vlingo (waaay back when, might need to retry it), and i like showing customers iris just because people want that siri style wit. I've got jeannie installed too (didnt know what it was at first since it used to say voice actions before the update.. lol)
I do however just use google voice actions the most.. probably because its just right there. But it works fine for me. Once u get used to "talking" to it, and it gets used to u, it works rather well. I use voice actions quite a bit actually.
I shall, however try some of these new apps you mentioned!
11. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
Yeah, I almost always have a wired headset in, so Jeannie just wouldn't work properly for me, but it does have an amazing feature set, and it can be quite funny. I hope they fix the bugs, so I can use it more.
14. remixfa (Posts: 14059; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)
it doesnt work with wired? Ive never tried. I just talk to my phone a lot while im driving... eerr... parked at a red light :)
15. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
It does work on wired, but when I first tested the app, it would trigger just by single-pressing the play/pause button, so it would trigger every time i paused music. They've since changed that behavior to only trigger the app on a long-press or double-tap, so that should work quite a bit better.
17. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
I bumped Jeannie to the top tier because of this fix.
33. remixfa (Posts: 14059; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)
would u still say speaktolt is better than jeanie?
37. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
I'm not sure. SpeakToIt seems to be a bit more accurate in returning what you're looking for, and the mini browser/map window can be pretty nice rather than loading a full instance. Jeannie has a couple extra features, and has funny responses. But I really did grow attached to my SpeakToIt avatar.
I'd say they are pretty well on par. Hard to give a definitive answer. They are top two for me on functionality.
68. Larry_ThaGr81 (Posts: 294; Member since: 26 May 2011)
It's going to go back and forth based on which app is better. It will come down to how much time each developer can dedicate to their app.
5. mad5870 (Posts: 60; Member since: 21 Nov 2011)
Good read Michael.
I use vlingo but i just need basic so it works for me. haven't tried others but i will get around to it.
My brother has an iPhone and I messed with siri and it is a very nice program.
Apple did a good job. simple and powerful.
I agree with your conclusion Michael that each one of those programs fit the needs of certain people and its up to the user to decide which one would fit them best.
9. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
Thanks! Yeah, as usual Android has choices that fit certain needs, and Apple tries to make something that covers what everyone would need. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
13. mad5870 (Posts: 60; Member since: 21 Nov 2011)
double post my b post 12 should be in reply to 9
18. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)
nice read. loved it. btw Jeannie actually sounds quite interesting lol
19. SilverUberXeno (Posts: 1; Member since: 30 Nov 2011)
This is a quality article. I find articles like these to be much more interesting and satisfying than bloated headlines. I understand the necessity and need for those as well, but this is so much more.
Personally, I find Siri to be a "neat" thing that nobody will really use after the novelty wears off. I have never, ever seen anyone using FaceTime, or any video chat client from a handset either. I do use my google voice search to "navigate to" various places frequently, but text dictation and the like, even when accurate, does not add much to my life.
Asking Siri about the weather and waiting/listening for her response, in my experience, takes more time and yields less information than using my weatherbug app. It's a neat idea, and it is INFINITELY more worthwhile than having BEATS AUDIO on a handset, but still does nothing for me.
Really, why do anything that omits a chance to use these big, futuristic displays? If I have a 300+ppi on a 4+ inch screen, I don't want voice commands!
That is the beauty of choice. Great article, Mike.
21. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
Yeah, especially on Android where widgets remove the need for a lot of the Siri options.
25. speckledapple (Posts: 879; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
i dont think voice control is less important versus the use of widgets but even with a high quality large screen, the ability to just talk to your phone without touching it so much is at least helpful. Though I will admit that gestures via some interface with the front facing cameras might just be even better (i.e. kinect for Win Phone 8)
30. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
It\'s not a matter of importance, but when you have widgets flashing weather and news, email etc, there\'s less need to drill into apps or use voice commands.
20. cybervlad81 (Posts: 84; Member since: 04 Apr 2011)
I guess I'm a meh type of person, I am happy with google's app, I may try some of the La Crème, but probably just stick with google. Great article.
23. networkdood (Posts: 6309; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)
There is a cool app out there on the market that will actually speak to you on who is calling ....
26. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
Fact is that siri is better than anything what android or other platforms can offer right now. And is closer to almost futuristic usage of phone we saw in so many movies.
28. networkdood (Posts: 6309; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)
good point - except in the future....IT WORKS....it works best on the AT&T network....wife has Verizon and it is useless.
51. Stuntman (Posts: 754; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)
In movies, voice reco is 100% accurate. Also, in movies no one every makes a mistake typing. You never see anyone press the backspace key. In real life, I hit backspace fairly often. I expect in real life, voice reco has some inaccuracies even in the future with better technology. You always have to confirm what you said.
63. jackhammeR (Posts: 1548; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
Yes, but experience with siri is closest to this "movie reality"
75. Stuntman (Posts: 754; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)
How does Siri handle long pauses? All this discussion about voice entry made me try using it again. I was texting a friend and decided to use voice reco. Well, I said my first sentence and then I had to think. VLingo thought I was finished. I had to cancel, think my text through and then say the whole thing in one go. After that, I decided to just use my keyboard for my next text.
Texting with a keyboard allows me the luxury of pausing and thinking through my next words. VLingo requires me to say the whole message in one go. For very short messages, its OK, but anything longer than a simple sentence is difficult to compose on the fly.
77. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2686; Member since: 26 May 2011)
You can definitely stop and think with Vlingo or any other when dictating. Just hit the microphone again, that shouldn't be a problem.