Google Now crushes Siri and Cortana in the battle of the OS voice assistants

Callum Tennent
October 9, 2014

Chances are you don’t care all that much about your smartphone’s voice-assisted service. It’s sad to say, but it’s true – people just don’t spend that much time sat around talking to the artificial intelligence inside their handset. These services certainly have their uses, but the majority of us see them more as an amusing niche or commodity more than a vital service.

For the minority that’s really into them though? It can be one of the most important factors on a handset. For example, what about those who work outdoors wearing large, heavy gloves? Navigating a touchscreen is impractical, if not impossible. Or those with disabilities, who lack the motor skills or mobility needed to use something as sensitive as a smartphone display. There’s a whole world of people out there who genuinely need a good voice assistant.

Until now, we thought they were more-a-less the same – Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana all perform most things as we need them to. We were wrong. Digital marketing firm Stonetemple has taken it upon itself to go in-depth into the voice-activated digital assistant scene to definitively, quantifiably decide which one is best.

We won’t keep you in suspense: the winner is Google Now, and by some distance. The most eye-catching statistic garnered from tests is that Google Now ‘completely answered’ questions 88% of the time, versus 53% for Siri and 40% for Cortana. The criteria were harsh though. As Stonetemple puts it, “If you asked ‘how old is the great wall of China’ and the knowledge panel result showed that the Great Wall was completed in 206 BC, you got no credit. In addition, even if the first regular web search result shows the result in its description or title, you also got no credit.”

Still, when you’re asking a relatively straightforward question you want the answer to be displayed as succinctly and immediately as possible.

Google Now also won out in another big category, ‘Percent of queries showing some type of enhanced result’. That is, how many questions returned answers with illustrative information supplementary to the question at hand? This factored in all of the different information panels, boxes and columns displayed on screen.

Google Now returned enhanced results on 58% of searches, versus just 28% for Siri and 20% for Cortana.

If you want to check out the whole test and see the in-depth results then click the link here. And if you were wondering which operating system to buy into with voice assistant as a priority, it seems the choice is obvious.

About the Author

Callum Tennent

International playboy/tech journalist.

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