There’s a new virtual assistant in town, and its name is Google Assistant. This isn’t the first version of Google’s voice search technology, but it is the friendliest. Apple kicked off this trend with Siri on the iPhone 4s. Siri started with a lot of personality and has slowly gained more useful features. Google took a different path. They started with a lot of great features and very little personality. Now, they are going for both.
Google Assistant is basically an evolved version of Google Now. It does a lot of the same stuff, but with a different pizazz. The personality is more important than some people might think. Siri received a ton of attention at the beginning because of the jokes and witty responses. Google’s voice search was infinitely more useful in everyday life, but it didn’t receive nearly as much publicity.
So how does Assistant compare with Siri now? Let’s take a look.
Here is the full list of commands we used in the video above.
- Call my wife
- Send a text to Holly
- Send a tweet
- remind me to mow the lawn tomorrow
- Show me fast food nearby
- How far is it to Ford Field
- Open Chrome
- Go to Phandroid.com
- Who won the Nobel prize last year
- who won the NBA playoffs
- what time is the Cubs game
- Get me an Uber
- What’s the square root of 64
- How old is John Oliver
- Where was he born
- Show me news about Rogue One
- When does it come out?
- What am I doing on Friday
- Show me photos of lake Michigan
- What movies are playing nearby
- What’s the weather like in Cleveland, OH
- My favorite color is blue
- What’s my favorite color
- Let’s play a game
- Tell me a joke
Who has the best memory?
Assistant and Siri both display information in a conversational format. It’s meant to feel like you’re talking to a real person. A real person can remember things that you previously asked about. A real person can also remember things about you.
A few of the questions above have follow-up questions. Assistant and Siri both handled the first one well. I asked “how old is John Oliver” and then “where was he born?” Both recognized that the second question was still about Oliver.
Next, I asked for “news about Rogue One” and then “when is it coming out?” Assistant understood that I was still talking about Rogue One and told me the release date. Siri asked me to pick a movie.
The next test comes with asking for information to be remembered for later. Both allow you to say things like “My wife is _____” and it will be remembered when you say “call my wife.” But what about other stuff? Assistant will remember anything you tell it. I said “my favorite color is blue” and Assistant was able to repeat that when I asked, “what is my favorite color?” Siri got sassy and said, “I can’t read minds.”
Where are the apps?
One of Siri’s new tricks in iOS 10 is greater integration with apps. This is something that demoed on Google Assistant at I/O, but it’s not available yet.
The first app-related command was about composing a tweet. I asked both to “send a tweet.” Google Assistant pulled up some random web article about Twitter. Siri asked, “what would you like to say?” I could then recite my tweet, have it read back, and send it, all without touching the phone.
Next, I asked for an Uber. Assistant shared the Uber sign-up page web result. Siri said, “I don’t see an app for that.” If I had the Uber app installed, it would have ordered a ride for me. Assistant will eventually be able to do more with apps, but right now Siri is winning this category.
Who’s more fun now?
I started this article by saying Siri had more personality at launch. However, now I would argue that Google has surpassed Apple in this category as well. Assistant has a huge library of Easter eggs and silly responses. It can tell jokes, play games, and even recite poetry. If you know the secret command, you can even play a silly game show.
When I asked Siri to play a game it said: “that is beyond my abilities.” I asked for a joke and Siri said: “nope…can’t think of one.” Hilarious. Siri has lost some of its sense of humor over the years.
Who reigns supreme?
There are a lot of things that these two virtual assistants do well, but they both have weaknesses. Google Assistant is better at remembering information and allowing you to reference things from earlier in the conversation. Siri is better at working with other apps on your phones. Assistant also seems to be capable of more fun if that’s important to you.
The question is, which assistant is the best right now? Both will continue to get better. Google Assistant will get new features when Google Home is released and Siri improves with every release of iOS. Which one did the best in our tests?