Last Updated: July 4th, 2012

S Voice is Samsung's entry into the fledgling "virtual assistant" market currently occupied by Siri, Evi, Speaktoit Assistant, Vlingo, and a handful of others. The Galaxy S III rom leaked earlier today, and while most of the stuff in it is broken and completely useless without the version of Touchwiz it's meant to run on, S Voice is a perfect combination of being interesting AND working. So we're going to take a look at it on my Galaxy Nexus, which is currently running vanilla (well, AOKP) 4.0.4.

S Voice is only meant to run on the GSIII's Touchwiz build, so I expect lots of force closes. It's not meant to do this, so I won't be too hard on it when it stumbles. But hey, this should be a great indicator of how well the intent handling is!

First though, we've got to install it (mirror #1, mirror #2):

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And oh my lord, those permissions do not mess around. It's totally justified though, S Voice needs all this because it can control just about everything on your phone.

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After installation, S Voice immediately spills the beans with a "Hey, this is based on Vlingo!" Terms of Service page. Afterward you are presented with a "Voice assistant for dummies" walkthrough, which I have dutifully taken screenshots of. The one incredibly neat feature this informs you of is the ability to have a verbal "wake command" for the voice recognition. By default, "Hi Galaxy" will take the place of pressing the listen button.

It also informs you that "You can say 'Hi Galaxy' when in S Voice or locked screen to automatically wake up S Voice." Now I'm not sure if "locked screen" means "with the screen on at the lock screen" or "anytime the phone is off" the latter would be really cool. Either way it's a special GSIII only feature, "Hi Galaxy" only works in-app on my Gnex.

There is also an extremely scary "Note: Wake-up command may consume battery" message. So the microphone really is just listening all the time. (Where's my tin foil hat?)

After the tutorial, you are presented with the full list of abilities for S Voice (any punctuation and capitalization weirdness is Samsung's fault):

  • Voice Dial - "Call Charlie mobile"
  • Text Message - "Text Katie message are you free tonight for dinner?"
  • Search Contacts - "Look up James"
  • Navigate - "Navigate to Cambridge, MA"
  • Memo - "Memo Send mom a card"
  • Schedule - "New Event Lunch with James July 21st at 1PM"
  • Task - "New task Finish project"
  • Music - "Play playlist my favorites"
  • Social update - ""Twitter update" Why do humans live so far North?"
  • Search - "Search Bonobo apes"
  • Open App - "Open Calculator"
  • Record voice - "Record voice"
  • Driving mode - "Driving mode on/off"
  • Set Alarm - "Set alarm for 6:00 AM"
  • Timer - "Set timer for 1 minute"
  • Weather - "What is the weather for today?"
  • Simple settings controls - "Turn Wi-Fi on"
  • Get an answer - "How tall is Mount Everest?"
  • Local Listing - "Find restaurants"

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After the hand holding is over we are presented with with this screen and it's time to get down to business! The little button on the left will mute the phone, meaning it will turn off the text to speech responses like when it reads your messages back to you, and the "?" button will bring up the list of actions.

So how does it work? Well, it's important to keep in mind it's not designed for this hardware, but man, the voice recognition is terrible. It's no where near in the same league as Voice Actions. Hopefully on the GSIII things go a little smoother. For now we'll just focus on S-Voice's abilities.

For starters, this "Hi Galaxy" wake command is crazy sensitive, even if you casually bust it out mid sentence the phone will pick up on it and start recording. It's awesome. You can even say "Hi Galaxy [command]" without waiting for it to respond and it will handle everything. It's very impressive.

First up is Voice Dialing, which works great, but it isn't very photogenic.  You say "Call bob" and it jumps into the dialer, so I really have nothing to show you a picture of. Next!

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Text messaging sort of works, just like I said, the voice recognition isn't so hot... I also don't understand why, in the first image, it completely drops my "Hey" from "Hey I'm testing..." It detects it and then just forgets about it.

The usage flow is great though. Once you say your text, you are presented with a cancel/send dialog, which you can answer with a tap or verbally. You can specify name only (picture 3, which was supposed to be "Send text to Artem") and it will respond with "What is your message?" It's very cool.

Every left-pointing speech bubble you see in the pictures (except for "Say 'Hi Galaxy'" and the initial "What would you like to do") are read aloud with a Text To Speech engine. There's no TTS built in, it uses whatever you have on your phone, which in my case is the dreary default Google TTS. Maybe the GSIII comes with something nicer.

Searching Contacts is totally busted, "Look up [contact name]" always does a web search, you probably need Touchwiz contacts for it to work. Navigation works great, but again, there isn't much to show.

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I really can't make this thing not say "Ass Voice." I swear it isn't me - I just don't think anyone told it its name, they should really fix that. Voice recognition is just all around bad, it took about 4 tries to get anything close to recognizable.

Again we see it dropping words it previously recognized for no reason. Originally, it recognized "Don't forget to make an ass voice post..." Then inexplicably it drops "Don't forget to make" once it determines it's a memo (with absolutely no input from me). I want my memo to be exactly what I said. The combination of bad recognition and editing makes this very frustrating. Again though, the usage flow is awesome, you can say new memo and it will ask what you would like to write.

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COOL! Calendar entries are scanned for conflicts. That's pretty awesome. The voice recognition is so terrible though. This took about 15 tries. The "What time should I schedule this for?" won't accept "All Day" as an answer, which is another problem. It's also terrible at natural language. You can't say "On June 27th schedule Google I/O" or really anything that deviates from the example. New event entries are the #1 thing I want from a voice assistant. Entering them by hand is tedious.

New Task entries look exactly like this.

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Music force closes, which means we're on to Facebook. It's pretty startling how much easier voice is. The first time you do it, it prompts you to login and allow the Vlingo app, after that it's smooth sailing. I doesn't remember the initial entry that prompted the login though.

Again you can specify the command first and it will ask for the content. The third picture was supposed to be "I've got to stop using S Voice in my examples" which it somehow turned into "Hi back to stop you seen voice in my dimples." That should give you an idea of how terrible the voice recognition is. It's bad. It's really bad. All these other pictures took several attempts to get something recognizable. I use voice actions daily with no problem.

Search brings up this crazy looking custom Google search. If you can get the Voice Recognition to cooperate, it works.

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Opening apps works, if it's not sure what you meant it will even give you a list of available possibilities. Cool. "Record Voice" is broken.

If I say "Driving mode on" it responds with "Driving mode on." Well then... glad that feature... works...? Timer and Alarm work great. They're the exact same function. Wifi off is also pretty straightforward.

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Weather is very pretty. If I didn't already have it on my home screen and in my notification bar I would be impressed. Bizarrely worded questions like "Should I bring an umbrella?" even work and get you a simple "yes/no precipitation." Protip, Samsung: sentences start with a capital letter.

Clicking the "more" button brings up Wolfram Alpha and WOW guys I really did not need the precipitation rate accurate to hundredths of an inch per hour. Calm down. I just wanted to know if it was going to rain.

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The answer service works great, and just like Siri, uses Wolfram Alpha for everything. For broader questions you get a little embed; for directly answerable stuff it just spits out the answer. Larry Page's middle name is "Edward," who knew?

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"Find a restaurant" gives you nice little phone call icons for each entry. The default of TWENTY listed entries is a little much though, some pagination every 10 or so would have been fine.

Overall, the capabilities of S Voice are really great. The interface is nice and I really like the ability to issue a command first and then the parameters. The "Hi Galaxy" wake command is amazing and really a handy feature. The sensitivity of it is top notch, even something like "Hi Galaxy set timer for 2 minutes" is handled flawlessly.

The voice recognition though, is pure crap. When your vocabulary is limited, like with the baked-in commands, it's good enough to work, but try and dictate a memo, or a calendar event title, and it will fall flat on its face. Getting screenshots for this article was very frustrating and took way longer than it should have because of all the recognition issues. It's no where near the level of Google's Voice Actions.

Still though, like I said in the intro, this isn't meant to run on a Galaxy Nexus. We'll have to see how it preforms on the hardware it was meant to run on. Recognition issues aside, this preformed surprisingly well for being freshly ripped from a leaked rom.

This hands-on was mainly meant as a look at the capabilities of S Voice, and they are pretty comprehensive. I really can't think of something I'd want to do verbally that S Voice doesn't support. If they can clean up the recognition issues, Samsung will have a really killer feature on their hands. We'll just have to wait until the Galaxy S III launch!

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

    Can't wait for Google Assistant.

    S Voice just seems like Samsung is doing a "Me too!" act. It's not really useful without TouchWiz, which is kinda boring.

    As I said: Google Assistant. 

    • Simon Belmont

      You and me both, man. I'm thinking Google Assistant will trump this six ways to Sunday.

      I'm really hoping to see SOMETHING about Google Assistant at Google I/O. Only a little more time to wait.

  • Thomas

    Seems to be very gimmicky, Google Search does a much better job at interpretting the words than S-Voice does :(

    I asked it what the best phone was and first it interpretted it as "What is it phone" and then "What is disco".

    Google Search got it in the first attempt.

    Then i tried one of their sample ones "How tall is Mount Everest", and it thought i said "Photos", how does that even happen?

    • AppleFUD

      So, you are using it on the Galaxy S III? Or just concluding that is doesn't work correctly because you've thrown a hacked app onto a non supported device?

      • Alchemist

        You'd be surprised what information you can obtain from actually reading the article...

        • AppleFUD

          yeah, I read the article :)

          My point was, if you read Thomas' comment, that he's saying the voice translation sucks. . . uh, yeah, that's exactly what the article also stated because the app isn't for the device he's using. . . so, it seems like an obvious conclusion. But Thomas is writing his comment in a way that makes it sound like the problem is actually with the app, not the fact that it's a hacked app.

      • Thomas

        I'm not concluding anything :)

        I'm merely providing the experiences i had with it, if people aren't smart enough to understand that the application is specifically made for the SGS 3, then that's not my problem.

    • Ron Amadeo

      That pretty much matches my experience when writing this article. 

      I didn't want to be too harsh because it's a leak and everything, but the voice recognition was unbelievably wrong. Often times it would get 1 word right out of an entire sentence. Almost every screenshot took multiple attempts.

      • David Chiles

        Well ive got a Samsung S3 and i'm terribly disappointed by S-Voice - almost all the faults i see above are still there!  TERRIBLE voice recognition, force closes quite a bit and worse still, once connected to my car bluetooth phone calls etc work but it wont accept ANY voice commands at all because it turns the flipping phone mic off!!  - even in car mode?! I did have an Iphone before this and I have got to say all "apple fanboism" aside that at least it "just worked" with my car BT - even Vlingo did.  Oh and Vlingo car mode just force closes right away! lol

        S-Voice for me is 5/10 really could have been much much better, lets hope time leads to fixes.  Samsung really need to try harder and give us software that actually works BEFORE launching it worldwide.

  • Himmat Singh

    Whatever said and done, Google's Voice Action, this or any other third part app (Dragon) just don't cut it out for me. I  think 80% of the time they don't even catch what I say, even when I consciously speak clearly. I may have some Malaysian slang, but not too much.

    On the other hand, Siri is actually flawless, from the little time I have used it. Still find it crazy talking to the phone though. People would think I'm certified to enter a mental asylum.

    • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai
      • Jameslepable

        yea if Gizmodo say voice actions is better we know siri is awful in comparison.

    • DrewNusser

      That's really far from the truth in my experience.  I've tested Siri against Voice Actions, Vlingo, Eva, and others.  Siri has lost just about every contest, unless you want her to tell you a joke or maybe the meaning of life.  She's been slower and less accurate for me.

    • rj5555

      My experience is that Siri, Google and vlingo all understandme equally well as long as i'm speaking in English.
      when I speak in Spanish only Google and vlingo work, and in Dutch only Google's solution works.

    • Semianonymous

      Siri has style, Voice Actions has functionality. In my experience, Siri is fun to play with and kind of cool to use, but given that is only has so many available options, not to mention it does seem to be slower, makes me prefer Voice Actions. 

    • Ron Amadeo

      You should love this then, because both Siri and Vlingo use Nuance voice recognition technology.

  • Andrei

    Where does it stand compared to alternatives on the Market (fine, Play Store) like Evi? Is Google's Voice Actions above them all?

    • Ron Amadeo

      It's not fair to judge it yet. Head to head stuff should only happen when the GSIII comes out.

  • http://twitter.com/TKfromCLE TK

    Samsung S Voice, powered by Vlingo? Can't I just download Vlingo for the same functionality?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      It seems to be lacking in functionality quite a bit compared to S Voice. For example, it can't even pull up weather.

      • http://twitter.com/TKfromCLE TK

        At this point the side-loaded version of S Voice can't do weather either. I can't get it to do anything other than Force Close on my phone.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dustin-Carney/1004713533 Dustin Carney

          it works for me, so maybe touchwiz is needed?

          • Edward Rubio

            Nope, got it on my CM9 Sensation

          • Ctaylors3

            Got it working on Gummy with Apex no problems... except music does force close.  Oh well.  I keep VC around for that.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Well, if it didn't force close, it'd do weather - as you can see, Ron's hands-on has weather.

        • Tek112

          You need to navigate to the system or data folder and change the permissions with Root explorer to match the other apps in that folder.

    • Ctaylors3

      Yes, but Vlingo does't interpret english very well.  You can't ask Vlingo "do I need an umbrella?" or "what is the integral of XdX?"

  • droidrev71

    Thanks for the nice write up.

  • fixxmyhead

    Ron Idk what ur smoking but this thing performs better than Google voice actions. I have found its more accurate where as Google always botches my commands. not by along shot but I have made this my default one I like it its really good.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I think we can agree that some things work better for some people, so YMMV.

  • challenge_accepted

    Do you guys have a mirror? The 3 links on XDA aren't working. 

  • mesmorino

    I would set it to respond to "Computer", and answer with "Yes Commander". That way my Star Trek notification system will grow more unified

  • http://profiles.google.com/marcusleejh Marcus Lee

    @Ron: If the Voice Talk app on the SGS2 - basically S Voice's predecessor - is any indication, when Driving Mode is "on", your phone is supposed to read out all your incoming texts (and possibly emails too).

    • Ron Amadeo

      Ah ok, must need Touchwiz then. I got a few text messages and it didn't read them or attempt to handle them in any way.

  • warcaster

    Chips based on Mali T-604 and T-658 (2013) will greatly improve voice recognition thanks to OpenCL.

  • Chris

    FYI.  Driving mode will automatically offer to read text messages to you when you get one, without it turned on, it just ignores the text completely.  Also, on my Galaxy Nexus (100% stock, no root), the "Hi Galaxy" wake command DOES work from the lock screen, but won't work when the screen is off.  Hitting the power button and saying it is definitely easier than unlocking the phone though.  Overall I've had mixed results, if I'm in a quiet room with no other noises, it's almost 100% accurate.  In the car or with people around me talking, it's a disaster.

  • RaviShah

    it was working earlier in the day for me and now it keeps giving me a network error. has samsung started blocking it?

    • Chris

      I'm getting the same error.  Started a little after noon today

  • Austin

    From the article it looks pretty good, but I just tried "What can I say?" (isn't that like the oldest one in the book??) and I get "!title for wcis widget" "Examples: !put examples here". lol I'll be happy to see the final product.

    I do feel like this was almost made for my phone, it being a Galaxy S (CM9 Epic 4g) though...

  • CurelessSyn

    It seems I just get consistent network error, nothing is coming through. That includes commands for offline things, such as opening an app. I have a Galaxy Nexus.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dustin-Carney/1004713533 Dustin Carney

      thats weird, but i can confirm everything is working on my galaxy note

    • Mike_Cook7

      Same here with VZ GNex.... :( Network errors. Worked great last night then as of 10am est only getting network errors

  • smakdown61

    So everyone was saying how useless talking to your own phone is when siri came out (and the fact that in studies most people only use it as a gimmick)...yet now everyone else has their own version. Interesting.

  • Brooklyn Greens

    So what are we then?! Guinea Pigs?! those were wayyyyyyyy too many negatives.... I just don't get google, android and their apps... it's like ghetto software... it's obvious you're trying to beat SIRI so for gods sake!!!! try hader and you will beat it. This companies have so much money and yet this is all they come up with... and you wonder why Apple has the market by the marbles...

    • Jameslepable

      its software pulled from an unreleased phone so it probably isn't finished yet. And it is being used on a phone it wasn't intended for that is on a non-touchwiz rom. S-voice is integrated into the stock rom for the sgs3 so until that comes out and can be reviewed keep your fanboyism to yourself.

  • http://twitter.com/KNNG кєηנι

    ****FULL GUIDE ON HOW TO GET S-VOICE TO WORK ON YOUR DEVICE****you will need to root your ics device (stock ics or maybe an ics rom) once its rooted you need root explorer , download the apk file to a memory card ,  navigate to the app , change permissons there and then to  rw-r-r then once thats done move it to system/app ( its apparent s-voice works better with your device if your device recognises it as a system app rather than just a normal app) restsart your device , power it back on and boot into root explorer and go to /system/build.prop hold it down and select "open in text editor"  scroll down to "ro.product.model=" and change it to this exactly as i write it "GT-I9300" (should appear twice enter the same data twice) (this is to stop the "network error" that samsung have loaded to all their servers to stop any phone other than the S3 to be declined by their voice servers)  click "save and exit" reboot & thats you (if you have problems on the GT-I9100 copying the file to the "system/app" folder (as only like 15-20MB is avalable in that folder) you will have to delete some apps , i deleted vilingo and youtube and pasted "s-voice" , i then opened it and went through the setup , clicked done and restarted. once restarted open app and go through tutorial. once this is done s-voice should work. :) **YOU WILL NEED TO BE ROOTED & ON STOCK ICS (preferably but if your on a ics rom it should still work but dont expect too much)** Gingerbread will not work (Android 2.3- and so on). This is known to work on the - Htc one Htc One x - Htc Desire with an ics rom - Galaxy Nexus - Samsung Galaxy S2 - Htc Sensation - if you follow my steps correctly you should get it to work fine on your device (but ofcourse you may get some problems as you are changing the buildprop on your device to which your phone isnt , this may cause problems if your on a complete different manufacturer , for an example changing the build prop on a Samsung Galaxy GT-I9100 it wont be as bad as its still a samsung device and only an upgraded model of the GT-19100 (the 19300 am talking about) but if your on a htc and you change the build prop it can cause major problems on your device and if you notice this change back the build prop to whatever text was there before you changed it.S-voice is pretty buggy so dont expect much but if your an android user and would like to give it a shot knock yourself out .- this is the full guide on how to install it without any flaws or "s-voice is not responding" messages.

  • Simon Belmont

    I just wanted to thank you for the detailed write up on S Voice. I found the SGSIII user manual last week and got the gist of how it works from that.

    This is much nicer. Thanks again.

  • unanimous

    Does the send message work without internet?

  • Ctaylors3

    The voice recognition works LEAGUES better than stock GNex voice recognition.  With Voice Commands, I simply cannot send a text to my wife.  It always puts her name in the body of the text and not the "to" field.  And it only does it for her and only her.  Can you say RAGE?  S Voice and Vlingo figure this out with no problem.  Vlingo does in-car pretty well, but my car is so dang noisy, it's hard to get either to wake properly.  I am anxious to see how S-Voice fares in the car.

  • CoffeeExtremist

    Recognition of names that are in the contact list is unpredictable. For instance, if I say "Call Netta", the correct connection is made. However if I say "Schedule appointment with Netta for 10am tomorrow", it does not recognize the name. In that context, it tries to parse the name into normal words, so what it recognizes may be something nonsensical like "Schedule appointment with that the for 10am tomorrow". It would be nice if I could say, "Schedule appointment with my contact Netta for 10am tomorrow". The word "contact" should force S Voice to look for the closest match in the contact list, rather than trying to parse a name into plain text.

  • aaron

    can u make s voice refer to u by your name?

  • Trev

    Does anyone know how to change the wake up command?
    My phone does not respond to it.
    I want to change the command but cannot find the menu.
    Help anyone??

  • clark

    Ask It to tell a joke or what the meaning of life:l

  • nisahall

    I have the s3 and my SVoice works beautifully.

  • meeeeeee

    how well does this work?

  • motleyman6

    why are there no pauses between"message" and the actual message and why does it say the punctuation used and the commands? HELP, I find it hard to understand!

  • Zoffix

    Lmao. I died on the "a** voice" screenshots. I managed to get mine to write "s voice" on Note II. What I can't figure out is how to CANCEL a timer I started. Very annoying.

  • bart

    Some of us simply need to have voice commands for hands free driving. I have a Galaxy Note 2 with S-Voice and it needs a network connection to tell the phone to call someone. Much less intelligent phones (feature phones) can in-fact take Bluetooth commands without any notion of a network. To use and pay data charges to use Bluetooth is not exactly advancing the technology. It has gone backwards! If I want to search the net, I don't need Bluetooth nor do I want to be driving and looking at the screen for the result. This quad-core marvel is really dumb without a network connection. Al I need is to make hands free calls.

  • Erica

    anyone know how to change that s voice wake up command?

  • Dar Forsythe

    Why do you have to have a network on to use voice commands?