Google vs Siri, search vs access


Google iphone app voice searchI’ve been trying out Siri a bit more recently, she (or he) is a strange being, sometimes the results are just what you want and others leaving you scratching your head mumbling “what the ****?”. The other day I wanted to call a restaurant called La Rugoletta (a nice little Italian place in East Finchley, worth a try) so I tried asking Siri to “call La Rugoletta”, the results were hysterical including Rude Goal Letter, Lauren something and Google Etta. The third try prompted me to try the Google voice search in the Google app on my iPhone – Bingo! 1st time I get a list of search results with the restaurant at the top of the list and a call now button.


Now Siri isn’t a complete fail, if you want to make a handsfree call, it’s reasonable, it can usually pull up your calendar but doesn’t read it to you, it makes a passable attempt at dictating a text message or setting up a reminder in the phone’s Reminder app and it can show you the weather forecast. Where it seems to be stumped is when you ask it a question outside of the limits of the phone’s apps i.e. a smart search presumably through Bing (if it works at all) seems to pull back some flaky results. I thought I would try a little comparative test of Siri and Google Voice Search

Question Siri Google
Call La Rugoletta Call Luke B*****er (from my contacts)
Call Ruca Letter
Search listing with correct restaurant at the top
Find La Rugoletta Find Post Office (presumably letter?) Directions to the restaurant and audio feedback on time to get there
What’s on at the cinema near me tonight? Can’t find Alberta Watson tonight x2 Search listing with Evening Standard cinema listings link at top
What’s on at the Phoenix tonight? (one of our local cinemas) Listings for “Mission Impossible” (some irony here?) at cinemas near me but not the Phoenix The “What’s on” page of the Phoenix Cinema
Where am I going on Tuesday? An address close to my home x2 (presumably answering the “where am I?”) Searched my Google calendar and listed my appointments for Tuesday

So what’s going on here? I don’t think it is voice recognition, Siri can do that quite well. I think it is context, both iOS and Google have access to my location, my calendar and my contacts, Google seems to be piecing everything together to make the smartest searches that it can while something seems to be failing in the chain between Siri and Bing.

I expect that voice will become more important in navigation, search and most other tasks that we use our phone for. Most of the time I use my SatNav app with the screen off relying on the spoken directions, the next step will be to be able to give it voice instructions. Imagine if you could ask how far to the next service station or report an OSM bug to your navigation application or ask your phone to text the person you are meeting with your expected time of arrival allowing for real time traffic. Voice could be the next big battle ground and at the moment Google seems to have an edge.