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Battle of the personal assistants: Apple vs Samsung vs Google vs LG

Tony Ibrahim | March 5, 2014
Google, Samsung and LG have followed in Apple's footsteps by launching voice-enabled personal assistants. We spent time with each personal assistant to identify which company has developed the strongest offering so far.

Google, Samsung and LG have followed in Apple's footsteps by launching voice-enabled personal assistants. We spent time with each personal assistant to identify which company has developed the strongest offering so far.

We relied on them for our answers, for our day-to-day communications, and for some banter during quiet times. Furthermore, each assistant was asked 30 questions in an effort to highlight its strengths and weaknesses.

Voice Search by Google
Wake up command: Ok Google

Google made headway fast by launching Voice Search not long after Apple showcased Siri. Voice Search wasn't some quick-fix solution though; several reviews at the time recognised Voice Search as the better alternative to Apple's Siri, because it better recognised the Australian accent and delivered accurate information quicker.

Voice Search still has an ear for the Aussie tongue, but our testing reveals it does suffer from a few problems. Using the Nexus 5, we found Google's Voice search focussed too heavily on searching for things on Google, as opposed to focussing on using the Nexus 5 to do things.

A shining example of this occurred when we asked Voice Search repeatedly to play Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men. Instead of finding the track on the smartphone's local storage and playing it in the music player, it continually suggested we purchase it again from the Google Play store. Voice Search was the only assistant which shamelessly spruiked itself when asked to play music.

Another example took place when we asked Voice Search to update our Facebook status. Instead of opening the application like the other assistants, it decided to perform a Google search for "update my Facebook status".

Voice Search does sound significantly more natural than LG and Samsung's offerings, but it has no tolerance for humour. Any time you appeal to its sense of personality, say by asking it to tell you a joke or if it loves you, it simply deflects by searching for the terms on Google.

However, if you are looking for an assistant that will schedule your errands and find you answers, Voice Search won't disappoint. Other areas it far surpassed its rivals include when we asked it to convert currency or to translate something from one language into another. Not only did it quickly retrieve the translation in text, but it also recited the translation fluently.

Voice Search also benefits from Google's knowledge graph. This means that you can ask Voice Search a series of qualifying questions in succession and it will accurately deliver an answer. Here's an example of how it works:

"Who was Nelson Mandela?"

"How old was he?"

"Was he married?"

This level of understanding is unique to Voice Search and it's better for it. The only drawback takes place when one of the follow-up questions isn't accurately understood.

 

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