Siri still playing catch-up against Alexa and Google Assistant

Siri still playing catch-up against Alexa and Google Assistant

Voice commands got off to a slow start in the smartphone universe, but voice control has become more and more popular as a way to interact with smartphones and complete simple tasks - and rightly so, since it can be very handy. Siri is now struggling against growing competition, though.

Siri is an important part of Apple’s strategy, since quite a large portion of the keynote at WWDC 2018 was devoted to it. Consequently, the voice assistant has also been given a few new features that should also make it easier to talk to. And yet, the formerly leading voice assistant will have to really stretch itself in 2018 to be able to keep up.

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No Siri, I can search on the Internet myself! / © NextPit

The Apple straitjacket is warm, but also tight

Siri’s new features, the Shortcuts which Apple introduced at WWDC, are bitterly needed to improve the assistant’s capabilities. Siri has so far been limited to the Apple ecosystem for many things. This meant that it couldn’t play songs from Spotify or display routes on Google Maps. App developers can now connect to Siri in principle, but they must first actively implement it in their apps. That will take time, and not every app will do it.

Alexa users in particular will be familiar with the concept behind shortcuts, since the Amazon assistant mastered them long ago. You can create your own routines in the Alexa app, and access to third-party services like Spotify, TuneIn and others has never been a problem. It looks the same with Google Assistant, even if the settings for your routines are a bit hidden in the Google app. Siri doesn’t race to the top with Shortcuts, but at the very least, it's keeping pace with Amazon and Google.

homepod white shelf
There is only one smart speaker with Siri: the HomePod. / © Apple

Apple also urgently needs to improve Siri’s speech recognition. Alexa and Google Assistant don’t understand every command the first time. In direct comparison, however, the error rate is significantly higher for Siri. Another phenomenon that you’ll repeatedly observe is that Siri hears commands correctly, but then does something else, as if she misheard you.

In comparison to the other two assistants, with Siri you’ll often hear this helpful response: “I found this for you on the internet.” I can look up things on Google myself, I don’t need Siri for that! Alexa and Google Assistant are much better at answering normal questions about opening hours, general knowledge, people and similar things.

The human touch is there

Siri and Alexa both seem comparatively “human”, not only because of the assistants' fluent language capabilities, but also because of little things that provide nice variety in between. From time to time, Alexa will wish you a nice day when you switch it off. Siri will act pretty nicely if she can’t do something. And if you’re a Trekkie, you can ask Alexa if she speaks Klingon for a fun response.

In the meantime, the Google Assistant is more matter-of-fact, but scores points for the celebrity support on some voice commands. Its automatic recognition of different users also makes the Google Assistant very family-friendly.

Simple tasks overwhelm Siri

Siri fails too often on simple tasks, whether it’s appointments, timers (using multiple timers doesn’t work at all), playing music, the flashlight or other banal things. Again and again, you’ll hear from Siri, “Sorry, I can’t do that”. And then a half hour later, it will be able to do the exact same task.

Overall, Siri has fallen behind the competition, and it was already miles behind from the beginning. The Apple Assistant has fewer features, fewer possibilities and a higher error rate than both Alexa and Google Assistant. The fact that Siri is at home in its Apple prison doesn’t necessarily make it any better, since it lacks input from other partners on Amazon and Google. If Siri is really going to turn into something, Apple still has to put a lot of work into it.

Source: WSJ (Paywall)


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  • Dean L. Jun 10, 2018 Link to comment

    I used to have an iPhone and thought Siri was good but having to repeat myself or getting the can't do that message was frustrating. I began using the Google Assistant iOS app and things were better but not perfect. Then I ventued back to an Android phone, the Umidigi Z Pro and experienced what Assistant could do on an Android phone and now I use Assistant almost all the time on my Pixel 2.

  • David Martrano Jun 10, 2018 Link to comment

    I had the iphone7plus for a year. I actually hated it. To me SIRI is terrible. I had to often repeat myself over & over. I guess IOS & SIRI are not for me. Went back to Android and very happy with that decision!