Google was keen to big up the revamped search abilities in Jelly Bean, claiming to have redesigned the function from the ground up. With one eye on Siri, it’s vastly improved its Voice Search, making it quicker and more accurate, with the might of the Google search engine behind it.
If you’re in any doubt, here’s why it’s more than a match for Apple’s voice-activated assistant.
There’s no doubt Siri looked impressive at the launch of the iPhone 4S. With its idiot-proof UI and sassy comebacks, it was the major draw for what was otherwise a slightly tweaked iPhone. But then us Brits had a go with Apple’s digital butler, and realised that without local services, it was basically a novelty. A fun one, but still a novelty.
Google’s revamped Voice Search, however, is the real deal. No smart-alec comebacks, no “Sorry I don’t understand,” just the info you want, and nearly instantaneously as well.
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Voice Search’s new UI utilises the knowledge graph within Google’s search engine to better understand your words and phrases. This means more accurate results. Ask about weather, trivia, news, or whatever, and a card pops up telling you what you need to know, and it only takes a couple of seconds. Siri looks positively sluggish in comparison. Google Voice Search will read out the answer it’s found, and it can handle such complex demands as “Show me pictures of pygmy marmosets.” Should you want to see said pictures, that is.
The information isn’t limited to the card. Swipe it aside, and you’re in the Google search engine, just as if you’d typed the query. And seeing as most of us talk far faster than we type, this should speed things up considerably.
But Google Now is where it really shames Siri.
It does everything for you
Google Now finds you info relevant to your situation, and it does so automatically, so you don’t even have to say what you want to know. It uses your search history, location history, and calendar to find out what you’ll need to know and when. It’ll be invaluable for the commute, as it’ll gauge the traffic and plot you a faster route. Or if you’re on public transport, it’ll tell you when the next train or bus is due. And all without you having to do anything.
It’ll point out places of interest as you walk down the street as well, like a tour guide in your phone, and it’ll even recommend what to eat, based on what the restaurant is best known for.
And you shouldn’t have any excuse for being late again, either. It’ll tell you when to leave for an appointment, based on how long it’ll take to walk to the bus, when the next bus is due, and how long the journey will take depending on the traffic. This is properly futuristic stuff.
When you’re travelling internationally, it’ll give you interactive cards for currency conversion and translation, and let you know what time it is back home. It’ll even follow your favourite footie team, based on your Google searches.
Basically, it pretty much organises your life for you. In fact the only downside is, well… Do you really want Google knowing so much about your movements and routine?
Siri, meet Passbook
The closest Apple has to this sewing together of different services is Passbook, its version of Google Wallet. It’s a feature in iOS 6 that lets you pay for things by tapping your iPhone on a sensor; it knows when you’re in the airport and brings up your boarding pass on-screen to save you faffing. It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple quickly enhances Passbook to offer similar capabilities as Google Now. It’ll have to, to stop from lagging behind.
Siri too will undoubtedly have a refresh at the next iPhone announcement in October, so Google hasn’t had the last word in voice recognition. But, on the basis of this unveiling, Siri, Samsung’s S-Voice, and LG’s Quick Voice should all go very quiet indeed.