Back in April of 2010, Apple purchased an intelligent personal assistant software from a company called Siri, Inc. for a rumored $200 million. Siri became an integral part of iOS with the release of iOS 5, and was a major selling point in the release of the iPhone 4s. The rest, as they say, is history.
Siri has grown leaps and bounds since 2010, and Apple has improved upon the personal assistant with every new iteration of iOS. However, Siri has also spawned a number of competitors – Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant are household names these days. And each are quite powerful, and come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Google Assistant, which spawned from Google Now, is Google’s latest effort into the realm of mobile personal assistants, and is featured on the Pixel and Pixel XL. Although Google Assistant is not even half a year old yet, it is one of the most powerful mobile personal assistants out today. Let’s take a look at how it compares with Siri.
Siri vs. Google Assistant – Simple Tasks
Part of the convenience of a digital personal assistant is the ability to perform simple tasks without fussing with your phone. It’s much quicker to tell your phone to “set an alarm for 4:00pm” than it is to wake your phone, navigate to the alarm clock app, and set one yourself. Such tasks are likely what most people use Siri or Google Assistant for. And on that front, both Siri and Google Assistant perform admirably. Asking either “what’s seven times nine minus four” will yield the correct answer, and asking either how the weather is will give you the information you’re looking for. Both can navigate you to wherever you need to go (although Google Assistant uses Google Maps instead of Apple Maps, which many people prefer), and setting timers and alarms is a snap. Sports scores, stocks, definitions, and simple web searches is also easy. It’s tough to pick a winner here.
Siri vs. Google Assistant – Advanced Tasks
Once you begin with more advanced queries, differences between the assistants start to become more evident. Both handle geo-location well – asking to “remind me to call mom when I get home” does just that. Both Siri and Google Assistant know where “home” is. Both also handle sending emails and text messages well, although Google Assistant defaults to Gmail, while Siri defaults to the iPhone’s stock email program – most people prefer to use Gmail, so you could give a slight advantage to Google there.
However, Google Assistant begins to pull away when you ask more contextual, or follow-up questions.
Both Siri and Google Assistant will give you the expected answers when you ask what the weather is, but following that question up with “how about in Denver?” yields another great response by Google Assistant, and Siri just doesn’t understand – you have to ask “how’s the weather in Denver?” Asking “what’s the news today” got a more natural response from Google Assistant, as well, bringing up a quick review of the headlines for the day. Siri delivered the news in a round-about way, opening up Bing for a news search. Google Assistant can even book flights for you, while asking Siri to do so once again just brings up Bing search results. Google’s understanding of context during your queries is certainly impressive, and is hopefully something they can build upon as Google Assistant matures.
Oddly enough, there are several features that Google Assistant’s predecessor, Google Now, could accomplish that Google Assistant just can’t. For example, although Google Now can read recent emails and text messages to you, Google Assistant can’t – Siri handles this with ease. It’s likely an issue that will be worked out with Google in the near future, but it’s surprising that all of the functionality of Google Now hasn’t already migrated into Google Assistant.
Although Siri can still perform certain tasks and queries that Google Assistant can’t, a slight edge probably goes to Google Assistant for its handling of context clues and natural language.
Siri vs. Google Assistant – App Integration
People rely a lot on third-party apps nowadays. Listening to music on Spotify, jotting a quick note in Evernote, scrolling through pictures on Instagram, and looking up restaurant reviews on Yelp are all commonplace activities that most smartphone users perform almost every day. Personal assistant integration with those apps is integral for the technology and widespread use to grow. And at the moment, Siri and Google Assistant handle integration with apps very differently.
Both Siri and Google Assistant have no problem opening apps. Asking either to open Facebook will pop the app open very quickly. And both assistants integrate with their stock apps very well – from calendar appointments to setting alarms to sending a quick email, Siri and Google Assistant do just fine (although many seem to prefer Google’s apps, such as Gmail and Google Calendar to the iOS defaults). However, at the moment, Google hasn’t yet opened up Google Assistant to third-party apps yet. So, assuming that you’ve enabled the Uber app, asking Siri to “call an Uber” will do just that quickly and easily. Siri also has no problem performing such tasks as booking a reservation with OpenTable, sending a Facebook message, or sending money via the Cash app. Google Assistant can’t do any of that – at least, at the moment, it can’t.
Siri wins this category by a landslide – it handles app integration very well, and the library of third-party apps that Siri can interact with is growing every day. However, comparing app integration between Siri and Google Assistant is, at the moment, perhaps a bit unfair. Google is set to open up their Assistant to third-party developers in December of 2016, and it’s sure to face some growing pains as that integration rolls out. Siri wins for the moment, but Google is likely not far behind in this category.
Siri vs. Google Assistant – Privacy and Security
Apple has always been praised for how much they value the privacy of their customers. Just how seriously Apple takes their customers’ privacy came to light earlier this year, when Apple refused to design a backdoor to their iOS operating system so that the FBI could unlock the iPhone 5c that belonged to a terrorist. Google has never shied away from their use of their customers’ personal data – it is used for such things as displaying ads relevant to each user on the Google search engine, but it is also used for more personalization in their services. For example, when Google Now was released in 2012, it promised to present you with “just the right information at just the right time.” Google Assistant builds on that, and with the treasure trove of your information that Google collects, it can tell you when you need to leave for work to beat the traffic, etc. While Google Assistant still has some kinks to work out, for sure, there is plenty of potential for it to become a very convenient part of its users’ everyday lives. The question is, are you willing to trade convenience for access to your personal information?
Like almost any other category when comparing the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel, Siri and Google Assistant each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Siri has been around for quite some time, and it’s evident during use – it feels more fleshed out. Google Assistant, while already quite impressive, still feels like a work in progress. On the other hand, the amount of data that Google is able to collect from its users, as well as their library of already-established apps, makes Google Assistant a bit more cohesive. As BusinessInsider put it in a recent review, Google “has a massive ecosystem of popular software services on which the Assistant can call. It’s a leader in search, email, calendar, music, streaming hardware, the works. It’s everywhere, and the Assistant is the line that runs through everything.” By comparison, Siri “is patchwork — it needs Yahoo here, WolframAlpha there, Apple’s own middling apps everywhere else.” At the moment, Siri is another one of Apple’s products that “just works.” It’s solid, fast, and stable. Google Assistant, however, shows much more potential. It wouldn’t be surprising if in two years time, Google Assistant is the best personal intelligent assistant available.