The Way We Work
November 7, 2011 by Julia Camenisch

I love my Android phone, but watching Siri in action recently gave me a case of iPhone envy. Yeah, yeah, I know I have Google Voice Actions on my Droid, but that’s nowhere near as cool as Siri. So I set out to determine whether there’s an Android equivalent to Apple’s soft-spoken mobile assistant. Here are the results of that search.

  1. iris (free): Developed in just eight hours, this app is still in alpha mode, but is already being hailed as a “Siri-killer.” That, I think, is a bit overblown. While iris can answer questions, make phone calls and send texts, that’s about all it can do. Even the completion of those tasks is a bit buggy in my tests, I found that results were 50/50 in accuracy. Still, the app is in the early stages of development and shows a lot of future promise. I am interested to see where iris will be in another six months or so. Maybe Siri will have to watch out after all.
  2. Vlingo (free): Vlingo is a bit more Siri-like than iris, in that it actually works fairly well with other apps  allowing you to open, say, Pandora and start playing your favorite channel simply by using voice commands. One key difference: Vlingo does not speak back to you, so you do have to actually read the answer. Just a year ago, that would not have even been an issue, right? (This shows how spoiled the wonders of technology are making us.) All in all, I found Vlingo to be incredible. I love it. I’m addicted.
  3. Speaktoit Assistant (free): The Speaktoit Assistant has a face (which is customizable), a voice (also customizable) and a lot of knowledge. I liked the conversational feel of Speaktoit, and my kids get a kick out of my phone talking to me. Like Vlingo (and Siri), the app will do tasks such as give you directions, text someone, control apps and make calls. However, I got a bit frustrated with how often the app seemed to have a hard time understanding questions and commands. I was also a bit annoyed by my avatar’s appearance. It felt cheap and cheesy, so I opted for the giant microphone icon. All that aside, it was definitely a useful app, especially for the price tag.
  4. Jeannie (free): Jeannie is another personal assistant with a customizable voice and a bit of attitude; she actually has a Siri-like sense of humor. This clever little app can be in constant conversation mode, allowing you to speak commands at will without having to tap a button. I’ve heard that Jeannie isn’t as full-featured as Vlingo, a claim which is worth testing. Several users are also complaining that the app has a glitch that makes it occasionally pinpoint your location as New York when that just ain’t so.

As I use these various voice command apps, I can’t help but feel like I have stepped into my favorite futuristic science-fiction movie. As the artificial intelligence technology improves, I predict Siri and its virtual assistant ilk will have us talking to our smartphones with the same ease as we now have when using them to listen to music and browse the Internet.

It’s your turn. Have you used one of these apps? If so, what do you think? And which would you recommend as a good Siri alternative?

Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.

  • Brad

    Julia, before I play with any of these apps can you tell me if any/all of them will read my email or texts to me? It would be useful when I hear a text or email notification sound while driving to have the message read to me. Thanks, Brad

  • sam

    Hi Julia first let me start by saying your very cute and as for the apps go i would go with Jeannie it does work well maynot do everything Siri does but is dam close. Have a good day

  • andre

    Wow, great article. I watch the commercials and think about wishing my droid was like the Iphone. Thanks for these resources and I'm going to check into them.

    • Julia

      Thanks, Andre. I'd love to hear which app you preferred.

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