Monday, July 02, 2012

Google Now vs. Siri: voice assistants fight - and Google Now wins

Despite the fact that's its newer Google Now reportedly beats Apple's eight month old Siri, according to three separate "tests." The reports follow closely a "study" by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, in which he gave Siri a grade of D.

Notably, these reports really focus on the part of Siri that might be less interesting to some, and less advertised as well. They focus on Siri as a search engine, where you might ask the voice assistant for some restaurants that deliver tomato soup on rainy days as opposed to asking Siri to send a text message to your wife or husband.

Technobuffalo took the new Google Now feature from Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) for a spin. They compared it directly to Siri with the exact same queries, and the results are shown in a video below.

To be honest, Google Now, despite its newness, comes off as more polished than the older, one-would-think-more mature Siri. Google Now's results were faster, and its voice seems more natural than Siri's.

Of course, that's a test with the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy Nexus - only. Things could be different with an iPhone 5 with better hardware, although Google could counter with the Galaxy S III, also with better hardware.

PC Magazine did a similar test, although they didn't provide a video with results. Instead, they provided screenshots of the results, and in summary, "Overall, Jelly Bean appears to work at least as well as Siri, often giving me more exact answers where Siri would want to do a Web search ... I still maintain that voice is more of a parlor trick than a useful feature in most circumstances. Still, I'm impressed at how quickly Google seems to have caught up."

Our opinion is also that voice search - while parlor trick may be harsh - is simply not as accurate or speedy as typing in a request. We're not in the age of Star Trek yet, folks.

Finally, BI did another unscientific study. Among the key points:

BI was impressed with the personalization of the service. As a Mets fan many of the author's sports-related Google searches related to Mets scores. Google is aware of this, and automatically sends him notifications of the latest score, sans an actual request.

As we noted previously, Google has finally done something useful with all the data it has on you.

Also because of his search history, Google Now kept the author up-to-date on possible delays on his flight back to New York City - automatically.

The author was staying in San Francisco, but knowing he had a meeting in Mountain View on Friday morning, Google Now sent him a notification about 45 minutes before the meeting that said he should leave if he wanted to make it on time - including traffic in the equation.

Finally, the author was amazed at Google Now's speed. For a general voice query, the result was nearly instantaneous. Frequently, Siri will take several seconds, something that folks in our want-it-now present to cry in anguish.

Here's a key point that agrees with what we believe, and why we think that Siri's personality is a cute selling point, but nothing else: "I don't need cutesy jokes and quips about which smartphone is the best. I need answers. And Google Now provides me with the answers I want. The end."

It sounds like Google has come back and has already beaten Apple's Siri. But it's Android Fragmentation that will now make all that a bigger challenge. Android 4.1 or Jelly Bean launches in mid July. How is it that the prior version, Ice Cream Sandwich, has only been adopted by about 7 percent of Android devices?

Android fragmentation is the reason, and if that continues, despite the fact that Jelly Bean's Google Now beat Siri, we might see only 7 percent of users using Jelly Bean and Google Now by next year at this time.

Our suggestion for Google: quickly, if you haven't already, somehow, someway, make Google Now a standalone client downloadable from Google Play. You must get this product into as many hands as possible.

Otherwise, Siri, despite being the inferior of the two products, will resonate in the minds of end users.

Oh, and don't forget to advertise the heck out of it, just as Apple has been doing with Siri. We think Zooey might be available.

No comments: