Voice assistants have been around for a few years but it's only recently that they have become household names - at least Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa have. But what if you don't want to support these companies, or if you just want to use a more specialized assistant? There are alternatives to Google Assistant and Alexa, and we've listed the best options here.
Microsoft isn't exactly a small fish, but it would be remiss not to mention Cortana as an alternative to Google Assistant. This assistant is very capable in everything you'd expect from its bigger rivals: making calls, sending texts, organizing your calendar, tracking packages, telling jokes and so on. But the main reason you may opt for Cortana is its seamless integration with Windows 10. If you already use Cortana on your PC, you may also find it very convenient for your phone too.
Lyra Virtual Assistant is a good option for those who would like the basic functions without the bloat of the big corporations. Lyra can search, organize your agenda, answer questions, tell jokes, translate, set alarms and so on. The app is well-designed and easy to use, and it's also free, both to use and free of ads.
Samsung's personal assistant app and its infamous physical button was the butt of many jokes in the tech world for some time, but it's come a long way. You can use Bixby to search the web, scan real-world objects for information, download apps and the usual suite of personal assistant functions. Now Bixby can also control your smart home via Samsung's Bixby Home speakers. If you've got a Samsung Galaxy, there's no reason not to give Bixby a try.
This voice assistant made by SoundHound has made advances in the last couple of years and offers some interesting features like a mortgage calculator, hotel booking via Expedia, and SoundHound's particular tool to search music by singing or humming a remembered tune or lyrics. All the usual stuff like finding restaurants, booking cars and so on are possible with very detailed questions and answers. SoundHound touts that its assistant matches voice directly to meaning for a greater understanding, rather than just doing an Internet search. While Hound is decent at recognizing context, it does lack some polish compared to Google Assistant and you may hit the occasional bug.
Robin is a voice assistant pitched as your infotainment companion to use on the road and it's still best at being your digital co-pilot, but you don't have to be in a car to benefit from its help. Directions, queries, translations, playlist management and so on are all covered. It's still technically in beta so, while it's rough around the edges, Robin is receiving regular updates and improvements.
I'll be honest, Mycroft isn't really ready for the masses yet but its an important consideration for anyone who's worried about big tech and privacy. This voice assistant is an open-source, crowdfunded alternative to Alexa and Google Assistant. A big selling point here is privacy - not everyone is comfortable with everything they say being recorded and kept by the big tech megacorps. Mycroft doesn't store any of your voice data on its servers, unless you explicitly opt-in to allow this so as to improve its speech recognition and intelligence. The user can revoke this permission at any time.
Being open-source, Mycroft can in theory work with anything, but it takes some effort from the community. At the moment, there is no simple Android app for Mycroft, although it is being worked on. However, you can try it out on a Linux desktop or Raspberry Pi, or order the upcoming Mark II smart speaker.
Which is your preferred digital assistant? Do you have any other alternative assistants to recommend us?