The uninformed consumer (read: not you, dear readers) may be forgiven for not realizing Google's voice search/voice assistant/Google Now thing is attempting to compete head-on with Siri, what with lacking a name and not being nearly as anthropomorphized. However, Google's voice powers are, indeed, aimed squarely at making the act of finding and using information far easier than Apple's automaton. In this video, the two go voice-to-voice and...okay, let's not beat around the bush. Siri gets thoroughly trashed.
Now, let's be perfectly clear. When dealing with voice searches and natural language assistants, your mileage will always vary. However, in this head-to-head comparison, it is no contest. Not only did Google pull up results faster, not only was Google able to integrate its own web results directly in the app (Siri often has to launch a browser to accomplish this), but, at least for these tests, Google seemed to be simply better at understanding what the user wants. Of course, Siri absolutely demolishes the competition in the "searching for stallions" category.
Now, we do want to be fair. We may be an Android blog, but that doesn't mean that we don't want to give other platforms a fair shot. So, for fun, here are a couple more head-to-head competitions between Google's voice assistant and Siri.
As you can see from the videos which, again, are hardly extensive nor are they entirely based on real-world needs (reminder to walk the dog may be useful, but how often will you really need to search for how tall Michael Jordan is?), Google simply seems to be both faster and better at integrating information.
Part of the reason is, of course, the Knowledge Graph. When Siri can't find the answer to a question, it turns to Wolfram Alpha first, and then to Google. Google results are typically brought up in a web browser. This is all well and good, but Google has an advantage in this area: Google happens to be Google. It can integrate its own vast databases of information into the app directly. A picture of a scallion can be placed directly into the app, whereas Siri needs to search the web for...what was it again? Pictures of a stallion?
This also lets Google make up some of the ground it loses to Siri in natural language recognition. Google voice search may not be able to translate the sentence "how much should I tip an airport limo driver?" and get a direct answer, but regular old Google searches can because that's how people have searched for that answer. Siri, on the other hand, doesn't have such specific knowledge. At best, it could search the web for
pictures of a stallion that information but that ends up right back at Google.
The other advantage Google has here is that, we must assume, speech is being transcribed on the device itself. Google announced at I/O that voice transcription, the feature that allows you to speak words and watch them appear as text in a text box, will now work offline. All the processing is done on the device, instead of on a server far, far away. While Google hasn't outright said as much, it's safe to assume the same process is being done when you perform a voice search. Your phone or tablet converts the speech to text, and then a simple string of text is uploaded to Google's servers, instead of a much larger audio file. This, along with some fancy Google server power, we assume, results in Google's voice search returning information much more quickly, while Siri is left to ask if you'd like to search the web for pictures of a stallion.
Both products are impressive culminations of tech that's spent decades in the oven. Both are also incredibly useful. However, if you were worried that Google's voice search might not be as impressive as you'd hoped, or if you thought Siri might still have the upper hand on natural language recognition, you may find yourself surprised by how Google's voice search performs.
Unless you regularly need to find pictures of stallions. In which case, may I recommend getting an iPhone?