Siri was introduced as a feature of the iPhone 4S in 2010. While it could only answer simple questions such as “What’s today’s weather like?” and “Who is Barack Obama?”, users praised the potential of the new voice assistant. Quite a feat for that time for a virtual assistant.
Expectations were high, and Siri fell short. Users complained about inaccurate responses to simple questions or commands. If Siri didn’t know the answer to a question, she’d crack a bad joke, which can seem like an unacceptable excuse for not having the ability to answer a question.
While Apple made improvements to its voice assistant, it wasn’t able to meet a lot of high expectations, and that frustrated users.
Three years later, Amazon introduced its own voice assistant named Alexa, and it was instantly pitted against Apple’s alternative. Users observed that Alexa was quicker with responses, and was answering more questions right than wrong. Alexa fell short next to Siri when it comes to the fluidity and flow of requests and conversations. Siri could respond to commands better, and it had no problems understanding multiple sentence structures that conveyed the same message.
In 2016, Google came out with an answer to Siri and Alexa in the form of Google Assistant. It became the gold standard for how natural language processing (NLP) should be implemented with a voice assistant. The drawback of Google Home was that it didn’t have the broad integrations that Alexa had with Amazon’s devices.
These three voice assistants are the most popular in the market and each of them has their own strengths and weakness. But, how exactly do they stand against each other?
The main tests we will conduct for these voice assistants are commands, conversation flow, music requests, home automation, and technology. MKBHD and Undecided with Matt Farell have given us interesting demonstrations and questions that can be used to test each of these three voice assistants. Let’s compare them using the following parameters:
Voice assistants started off as devices that could answer simple questions such as the time and the weather. Accuracy of response is key here and speed is an additional bonus.
What’s the weather?
Siri, Alexa, and Google Home have no problem answering this. Google tends to have a slight delay in its response generally, but nothing that could test a user’s patience.
How far away is London?
Siri and Google answered this right in miles as the crow flies, while Alexa provided an inaccurate response, or the answer to a different London (there are 29 places in the world called London).
When humans have conversations, the talking points build naturally and flow from one topic to another seamlessly. For a voice assistant, understanding context while having a conversation is key.
The following questions were asked one after the other to each voice assistant separately.
Who is the 45th President of the United States?
All three voice assistants provide the right answer. Siri cites the source and asks users if they’d like more information.
Where is he from?
When asked immediately after the previous question, Siri and Google fail. Alexa seems to handle context better than its two competitors.
Since all voice assistants communicate with speakers, they need to understand song, artist and album requests. But before we get into their ability to play a track on-demand, its important to note that each voice assistant only plays music from a select set of streaming services. Alexa wins here as it plays from most major services. Google works only with Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, and Deezer. And Siri, not surprisingly, only plays from Apple Music.
Play Get Lucky by Daft Punk
Simple task. No losers here.
Play the song that goes “like the legend of the phoenix”
Alexa fails here while Siri and Google Assistant get it right.
Home automation refers to command-based control over home appliances such as fans, den lights, television, heaters, etc. Here’s how the voice assistants fared with the following two questions.
Turn off the den lights
All assistants successfully turned the lights off.
Set the room temperature to 70 F
Google Assistant and Siri got this right, while Alexa adjusted the room temperature to a value between 65 and 70.
Siri primarily works on Natural Language Processing (NLP) integrated with Machine Learning (ML), and voice recognition. Alexa operates on similar tech such as Automated Speech Recognition (ASR), and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). The technology isn’t too different from google either, its voice assistant employs NLP and ML.
Yes, the three voice assistants use ML and NLP to understand what the user is saying and to make suggestions or respond to the user’s language input. While the primary technology is the same or at least similar, the end result is what separates the three. As observed in the tasks assigned to them earlier, certain aspects of each voice assistant’s tech, such as the ability to understand speech patterns and words, give them an advantage and a disadvantage.
The aim isn’t to be diplomatic, but there isn’t exactly a winner among the three. All the voice assistants can, for the most part, do the same things. Alexa has the largest home-integration options among the three, while Google Assistant and Siri are a lot more natural to talk to.
If you’re big on home automation and having wide music streaming options, Alexa is the voice assistant for you.
If you find yourself comfortable with Google’s streaming services such as Google Music and Youtube, Google Assistant is a smart pick. It also comes with a formidable range of home automation.
And finally, if your household is equipped with Apple’s products, it’s a no brainer to pick Siri, who’s device also has the best speakers among the three. Siri also has an advantage concerning privacy, as it encrypts all data, unlike its competitors that use it for targetted ad campaigns.
As a consumer, your goal is to see which one of these fits your requirement and aligns with what you’re looking for from a voice assistant.