Apple’s Siri is perhaps the iPhone 4S’s biggest selling point. Even the new commercials spend more time focusing on Siri than any other aspect of the device.But you can easily argue that Siri-like control isn’t anything new or revolutionary. Android phones have had deep voice control and dictation for more than a year now. Apple is still playing catch up when it comes to voice control.
Plus, Apple still considers Siri a “beta” product, which explains why its subject to failures like the one last week that left it unusable for about a day.
Thanks to some great third-party apps, Android owners can enjoy the same level of voice control as iPhone 4S owners. Some of our favourites offer much deeper integration than Siri does on the iPhone 4S. You can control hardware functions like aeroplane mode, Bluetooth, and 3G/4G.
We tested out and put together our favourite Siri alternatives for Android right here.
Vlingo is about as close to Siri as you can get on Android, and it's pretty good. The app lets you do anything from sending texts to searching for nearby venues.
It even goes a few steps further and lets you update your status, check in on Foursquare, or launch apps. For example, saying 'Check in to Starbucks' will open Foursquare and give you the a list with the closest Starbucks locations to check in to.
That's one thing Siri still can't do.
Ever wonder where Siri gets all that information from? It comes from Wolfram Alpha, a knowledge engine that can tell you everything from the weather on the day you born to 'what is 2 + 2?'
Edwin is voice-controlled assistant for Android phones that pulls information from Wolfram Alpha, just like Siri does. The results are impressive.
You also get the standard voice assistant features, including the ability to control your phone's hardware. (Switching on aeroplane mode, finding a new Wi-Fi hotspot, etc.)
Google's Voice Actions have been part of Android far before Siri hit the iPhone 4S. You can use it to search the web, send texts, get directions, you name it. And it's all built in to Android. We've been using Voice Actions since we first tested the Nexus S and it keeps getting better with every update.
Price: Free (You probably have it already. If not, click here.)
The Sonalight Text app for Android will read incoming texts to you so you don't have to check them when your driving or otherwise unable to look at your phone. The app will also let you dictate text messages.
In addition to performing voice commands like sending texts, searching the web, and getting directions, Voice Actions Plus for Android can translate foreign languages and control basic phone functions like BlueTooth and volume. You won't see that on Siri.
Most of the voice-controlled apps we've mentioned so far can't answer personal questions like Siri does. Speaktoit Assistant is an exception. In addition to being able to launch apps, update Facebook, and search the web, you can ask Speaktoit other everyday questions and it will respond.
The app is still in beta and still improving. But it's very close to what iPhone 4S owners enjoy with Siri.
Edwin may not be as polished as Vlingo and other competitors, but we think it does voice control the best on Android. We love the Wolfram Alpha integration, and you can't beat being able to toggle hardware controls like aeroplane mode just by talking to your phone. Edwin is still evolving, so it will only get better and more accurate with time.