A few years ago, you’d only see someone talking into their phone if somebody was on the other side. Fast forward a bit and now talking to your phone when you aren’t on a call is no big deal. Siri for iPhone revolutionized the behavior, and nowadays it’s common to see people use their voice to control their phones. Luckily, these options are available on Android, too.
Not sure what Siri is? Just think of it as an app on your mobile device that acts as your very own personal assistant. This app can keep track of appointments, remind you of important events, give you driving directions, call your friend, and more – all you need to do is speak a command. Siri is for iOS, but Android has a few Siri alternatives that you ought to try.
Features: When everything works, Skyvi can do a lot: send and read texts, call contacts, find locations, get directions, play music, retrieve weather information, update social media with voice, and more. The only problem is getting those features to respond to voice accurately.
Speech Recognition: I don’t know whether I was slurring my words (I don’t think I was), but I had a lot of trouble getting Skyvi to recognize my speech. I asked it to send a text to my friend with the message “I’m trying a Siri alternative” and it wouldn’t register. “Skyfall movie” became “Skype or movie.” A bit frustrating after a while, to say the least.
Quality of Results: When the speech recognition does work, Skyvi’s results are hit-or-miss. When searching for restaurants, it seemed to do well enough. When asking for “Syria news,” Skyvi responded with a joke about two eggs. Huh? If you’re confused, imagine how puzzled I was.
Features: Compared to some of the other voice assistants in this article, Iris is a bit lacking in what she can do. She can do the usual: call and text contacts, Google search, weather reports, find locations, set alarms, and interact with social media. But that’s about it. Iris might be the original Siri alternative (look at their names!), but it has fallen behind a bit.
Speech Recognition: Iris’s speech recognition is impressive. No matter what I said, she heard me perfectly. I tried to trick her using some of the more difficult sounds to register, like lots of “s/th” and “b/p,” but she never failed. Even when I spoke faster than I normally do, she heard me well.
Quality of Results: On the more simple commands, Iris delivers what I expected. Weather information was spot on. Setting up a new appointment was flawless. But sometimes, Iris would understand me perfectly and give me a nonsensical response. “Find [restaurant] near me” resulted in Iris giving a one-sentence physical description of herself. Weird.
Features: Robin’s official title is “The Siri Challenger” but she’s more of a driving assistant than a personal assistant. With that said, she’s still very useful. Robin is perfect when you want hands-free answers for locations, directions, and communication. Retrieving parking info, texting and calling, updating social media–these are just some of what she can do.
Speech Recognition: Robin’s speech recognition was slightly off at times, but it was accurate enough overall that I wasn’t growing frustrated. Additionally, Robin’s speech processing speed seemed faster than the rest of these apps, which meant faster results. That’s always nice.
Quality of Results: I asked Robin and Robin answered. Whether it was weather, restaurants, or movie theaters, she was accurate about it all. Even when I was composing a text message through voice, she guided me along and I never had to fix anything.
Features: Vlingo’s feature set is actually a bit sparse. It has most of the basics, but little more than that. If you aren’t looking for a bloated assistant and you’d rather use something small, fast, and sleek, then Vlingo may fit the bill. If you want something versatile and all-in-one, Vlingo isn’t it.
Speech Recognition: Vlingo was average in the speech recognition department. When I spoke too quickly, it would sometimes jumble words together, but if I spoke clearly, it rarely failed.
Quality of Results: When it came to searching the Internet for an answer, Vlingo’s responses were actually the best. Even when I asked for something obscure, Vlingo found exactly what I was looking for. I guess when you have such a small feature set, accuracy has a high priority.
Features: Maluuba is a real personal assistant dressed in the Windows 8 design (it was once Metro, but I don’t know what it’s called anymore). Find restaurants, search the Internet, fetch movie times, navigation, play music, social networking – Maluuba can do nearly anything. The one downside to Maluuba is that you must connect a Google account, even if you don’t care about the calendar-syncing and email-reading features.
Speech Recognition: There were a few hiccups when speaking to Maluuba (recognizing “our go” instead of “Argo”) but overall, it left me impressed. The whole process was so pleasant, in fact, that I found myself enjoying the Maluuba experience. Quite surprising for me, actually.
Quality of Results: Nearly perfect. I tested as many commands as I knew existed and the results were consistently strong. However, for obscure pieces of information (e.g., lesser-known video game titles) it would redirect me to WolframAlpha, which gave me some interesting but not-quite-accurate answers.
After spending a few hours with these Android personal assistants, my winning pick has to be Maluuba. Its search results weren’t as strong as Vlingo, but I’d rarely use a personal assistant for searching. Instead, when it comes to making appointments, setting alarms, fetching weather and news, and communicating with my contacts, Maluuba has no flaws that I saw.
As for the rest, I’d order them like so:
- #1: Maluuba
- #2: Robin
- #3: Iris
- #4: Vlingo
- #5: Skyvi
I always thought Siri was just a gimmick that provided no real benefit, but having tried out these Siri alternatives on the Android, I can see why this sort of app has become so popular. There’s no way to use Siri on Android, but with these alternatives, you can pick and choose according to whichever will suit your needs the best.
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