September 30, 2014

What is Siri? And Does Siri Have Competitors?

what is siri

If you own a recent iPhone or iPad, you know what Siri is.  For those who don’t, we’re going to briefly explain Siri, including what it does, and some alternatives to Siri.

Siri is the name of a module for voice commands on Apple devices.  Siri lets you control the iPhone with your voice.  You can ask Siri questions using your voice — without typing.  Siri answers in a human-sounding voice, also.

You can use Siri to search the Web, send emails, find text messages and read them to you out loud, post social media updates, make phone calls, and even set up appointments or reminders.  You can also use Siri as a dictation device to dictate notes you want to remember.

Because of those types of activities, Apple calls Siri a “personal assistant.”  Siri is built into recent-model Apple devices so there is nothing for you to download.  It’s already available.

Apple says that you don’t need to talk slowly or pronounce things carefully — you can speak in a natural voice.  There’s no need to “teach” it — although like most voice recognition programs it does get better the more you use it, as it does learn to recognize your speech patterns.

Siri was launched with a media campaign that featured Samuel L. Jackson in one commercial (embedded below).  At first, while Siri was still a novelty, people wrote about it and used it.  But after a while, the romance with Siri soured.  people found that it wasn’t 100% accurate.  One report put accuracy at under 70% in delivering correct responses.

The way it works is that your requests and commands to Siri are uploaded to Apple servers somewhere, interpreted, and then a response comes back to you.

Some companies, like IBM, at one point banned Siri on privacy and security grounds, because it’s not clear what happens to the queries and whether they are saved by Apple.

There are alternatives.  These are considered two of the best:

Google Mobile Search for Android – Google has voice activated search for Android devices.  You can request a variety of things.

Dragon Mobile Assistant – By Nuance Communications, the makers of Dragon voice activated software, comes this mobile assistant.

Our take:  while Siri and other mobile assistants hold promise, they aren’t at the point where they can be relied upon 100% of the time with 100% accuracy.  However, if you are looking for a way to be more productive in your daily work, these mobile assistants can cut down time.


Image: Apple

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Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

5 Reactions

  1. Thanks for the wonderful overview on Siri, Anita! I think having our own robotic assistant is a dream for many of us. The video is a great look at what such an assistant would ideally be capable of even if the reality falls somewhat short.

  2. Anita: How is Siri working in non-English countries? I was looking forward to this kind of “PDA” by voice command when I heard about Siri the first time around. I must say that I haven’t used the feature so much yet. Do you know about a source on the net that are giving tips and tricks on how to use Siri?

    I wonder what the fictional character, Jeeves, would say about Siri… ;)

  3. Although using Siri might prove handy within the US but a lot of people living outside have got complaints about its perfection. One of my friends from NewZealand was telling me how hard he finds using Siri there as he can hardly find things closer to him. If that’s the case then my query is – why do you let it use in a country that doesn’t support it at all?

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