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Siri vs. Google Search

Rob Griffiths | Feb. 27, 2013
If you've seen any Apple advertising at all, you may come to the conclusion that Siri is indeed the slickest feature available on any phone ever made. However, Siri isn't the only speech-recognizing search-assistant available on the iPhone, and that it may not even be the best one.

Finally and importantly, Google is much faster than Siri, and sometimes dramatically so. In total, Google was able to answer my four questions in about 15 seconds, whereas Siri took about 26. That's a lot of time spent waiting for Siri.

Stumping Siri

The time differences were most dramatic when I asked Siri a question she couldn't answer: Siri took twice as long as Google with my vanilla ice cream question. Technically, she would have taken even longer, as I'd have to tell her that I did indeed want to search the Web for an answer, then wait for those results to appear. It seems obvious to me that if I ask Siri a question and she doesn't know the answer, she should just look it up--why force me to basically ask twice for the same information?

Siri is also much slower than Google when you ask her a question that requires her to use another service, such as asking about the height of Mount Kilimanjaro. Siri's results come from Wolfram Alpha, so you've got to wait through a two-stage process to see the results. And again, Siri ever-so-usefully tells you, "This might answer your question," instead of simply stating the mountain's height (as Google does). Google does great with fact-based queries because, well, it's a search engine and that's pretty much what it was designed to do.

Siri does have one key advantage over Google, of course: She's never more than a press-and-hold away from activation. This alone will keep many people using Siri. To use Google, I have to make a conscious effort to first switch to the app, which is why I've added it to the Dock. (I tried using Siri to launch Google, but unfortunately, I also have Google Earth installed. If I tell Siri to "launch Google," she always asks me which one I want to launch, despite the fact that I clearly did not say "launch Google Earth." Argh.)

Because of the speed, accuracy, and usefulness of Google's search results, I've pretty much stopped using Siri. Sure, it takes a bit of extra effort to get started, but for me, that effort is worth it. Google has taken a key feature of the iOS ecosystem and made it seem more than a little antiquated. When your main competitor is shipping something that works better, faster, and more intuitively than your built-in solution, I'd hope that'd drive you to improve your built-in solution. So how about it, Apple? Can we have a non-beta Siri--yes, it's still technically prerelease--that's a more worthy competitor for Google's voice-powered search tool?

 

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