You've already got Google voice commands, but what about something with a little more personality? Microsoft has got you covered, or rather, it will in a few weeks. Redmond is working on a version of its Cortana virtual assistant app for Android.
Update Wednesday has come and gone, but most of what we've seen can be described as bug fixes and relatively minor adjustments – not that we aren't happy with improvements of any kind. Google just set loose Maps 9.6, and like most of the other apps, the changes are mostly about fine-tuning. This version slightly improves the visibility of Zagat reviews and adds an option to determine if the voice should play over speakers or Bluetooth during turn-by-navigation.
Ever since Google integrated Voice with Hangouts, listening to voicemail has been a highly-focused affair. Unlike traditional voicemail, which we're conditioned to hold up to our ear like a phone call, voicemail in Hangouts comes with a play button that encourages us to treat it more like the audio file that it is. This is the same way Google Voice has treated it on the web for forever.
The downside is that turning off the screen or backing out of Hangouts has, until recently, caused the message to immediately stop playing.
Today Amazon unveiled what may be its most peculiar hardware to date, and it's not what you would expect. It's... wait, did you hear that?
Sorry, it was just an Echo.
Amazon Echo is a cylindrical speaker that responds to your voice commands. If you want music, tell it what to play. If you want to know the weather, ask it the question. It can handle alarms, pull up information from Wikipedia, or update you on the news.
You might remember Robin Labs—it's the company behind that Yahoo voice assistant app and the possibly deadly Android-powered rear-view mirror. Now Robin Labs has launched a kind of real product called Less.Mail, but it's invite only and still in the early stages. Less.Mail is an app that leverages artificial intelligence to manage your email by voice.
Amazon's Android app has received an update to 5.1 that's all about reducing how much typing you need to do to use the app. We've spotted changes to the search UI that make it possible to perform inquiries using your voice. We've also come across strings hinting that credit card scanning is either already included or on its way.
When you hit the magnifying glass in the action bar to begin a search, the screen that appears will now contain a microphone for voice searches.
Motorola's always-on voice control system is a little less special than it was a year ago, but it's still a neat feature. It's still got some room to grow, though. The recently rebranded Moto Voice app is improving a bit today. Specifically, it should reduce some of that lag when initiating commands by voice.
We saw Google Voice integration go live last night, but it contained a number of issues which this update is expected to fix. Yet as exciting as this is, what's more immediately striking is the new visual redesign.
With the amount of smudging this post required, I feel like I've been working on classified documents. The new version of Hangouts plasters your email address absolutely everywhere. It's not an issue when using the app, but it does make for some rather swirly screenshots.
The new Moto X makes a good first impression, but that's as much to do with the software as with the hardware. Luckily, owners of last year's Motorola devices won't be left in the dust. Motorola's Punit Soni has confirmed that all the new software features will be ported to the last generation devices, provided there is hardware support.
Update: It looks like FreedomPop ran out of stock on its refurbished tablets almost immediately, and at the moment the links below default to various hotspot gadgets. Given the limitations of Sprint service, it's not a surprise that the company's secondhand hardware stockpile wouldn't be huge.
Also, several prospective customers have told us that they've been given the run-around when trying to sign up for the free plan, instead being placed on the free trial for paid service and almost immediately charged.