Smart assistants could be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to taking our jobs away in the future, but that doesn't mean we can't use them in the meantime. Virtual assistants like Cortana, Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa are now a signature function of smartphones and tablets. So knowing which is the best can have a significant impact on your next hardware purchase.
To see how these different intelligent assistants measure up, we played Cortana against Siri against Google Assistant against Alexa in a virtual assistant.
If you already have a smart assistant of your choice, check out our guide to using Cortana on Windows 10 or check out some of the funniest questions to ask Siri.
Speech accuracy and speed
The digital assistant's primary ability to know when to be spoken to and to understand what is being said is vital. Everyone has a wake-up word or phrase to listen to, such as B. "Hey Cortana", "OK, Google", "Siri" and "Alexa". The wake-up word prompts the digital assistant to listen and respond to what is said next. However, if you have a niche accent or don't like to scream, do some assistants understand you better than others?
While each of the major voice assistants offer excellent speech recognition, the Google Assistant and Siri are better at picking up what you're saying – especially when there is ambient noise or the assistant itself passes some information to the user. Microsoft claims Cortana has a good grasp of context, but it has a lot more trouble actually hearing what you're saying than the other two, as does Alexa. Quiet environments are best if you use the last two, as background noise can significantly affect them if you understand what you're asking of them.
In terms of query response time, the Google Assistant is once again ahead of the game and consistently provides fast responses to orders. Alexa and Siri were both hot on their heels, but Cortana is the last to enter. Since users have reported problems with Cortana who understand basic requirements themselves, even though they have no issues with their microphones (setting reminders, canceling tasks, and finding information about restaurants), it is difficult to measure response time to requests when they are not heard will. If the command is clearly captured by the alternative digital assistants, Siri can often crowd out Alexa, but it depends very much on the tasks you give them and your knowledge of their command prompts. So when it comes to speech recognition: Siri and Google Assistant win this category. However, when it comes to query response times, the Google Assistant is the clear winner.
Features and skills
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Regardless of which virtual assistant you use, they all support the same essential functions. This includes setting calendar events and alarms, making calls, sending emails and messages, and playing music. But everyone also has their quirks and peculiarities that make them unique.
Cortana uses Microsoft's own Bing search engine to search and respond to requests for information, while both Siri and Google Assistant use Google. While the latter two may use the same search platform, Siri will prompt you to call or make a reservation when asking for restaurant information. If you already know where to eat, all three can make a reservation or order food for you.
The Google Assistant has another benefit for those who regularly use the Google search engine: it already knows a lot about you. While this raises some privacy concerns, it also means that it's probably the most personalized service – at least when it's your first time using it. The Google Duplex natural voice system promises more natural communication with the Google Assistant, whether it is between it and the owner or with others.
Some of the features offered by the wizards work differently depending on the platform on which you are using them. Google Assistant reads the news to you on a home speaker, while Cortana does it on a smartphone. Siri just likes to play music through Apple Music, while Cortana and Google Assistant work just fine with Spotify and music stored on your device.
Alexa is great for simple commands and orders on Amazon. However, if you are looking for a digital assistant who understands everyday language and does not require a user manual to master it, you may want to look elsewhere. It's close, but when it comes to ease of use, personalization, and natural communication, the Google Assistant stands out from the competition to win the Features and Functionality category as well.
Probably the biggest difference between the most important virtual assistants lies in the hardware and the platforms on which they can be integrated. Siri may work well with HomePod speakers, AirPod headphones, and on devices like the iPhone and iPad. Unfortunately, you cannot access it on your Android device or Windows PC.
In comparison, the Google Assistant is available on Android and iOS platforms. With a few tweaks, you can even get it to work on Windows or Linux. It also has compatible hardware options like the Google Home Smart Speaker and Chromecast and is gradually being integrated with Chrome OS devices like the Google Pixelbook.
Cortana is similar and offers a wide range of hardware and software platform support. It's built into all types of Windows 10 devices, including all Windows 10 PCs, the now-defunct Windows 10 Mobile, and the Xbox One console. Cortana lives on in some smart devices too, including the Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker, and there are always more powerful and indispensable Cortana apps for iOS and Android. As part of the Amazon ecosystem, Alexa can easily connect to Fire TVs and tablets, as well as many other Bluetooth speakers in various designs – contrary to the aesthetics of the Google Assistant cookie cutter – and provides a great base for those involved in developing a Smart Homes are interested.
When it comes to how easy it is to get your home assistant up and running, Cortana is the only one that takes a long time. While Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri enjoy setups that only require a username and password and take less than a minute to initialize, Cortana lets you jump through multiple frames.
To test Cortana, you'll need to sign in to your PC, provide a personal email account (not affiliated with a school or business), and wait for a verification code to arrive. Some users have even reported that they need to connect to Cortana through the app. Then they are only allowed to log in with the e-mail account approved by Cortana and are designated by the wizard as an e-mail account for the duration of the setup process. Due to the confusing process of setting up Cortana, we had to derive some quality points. That alone puts them behind the others who have simpler methods. When it comes to ease of use in an ecosystem, there are three options: Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri all do well here. However, in terms of platform availability and hardware integration, the Google Assistant and Cortana are better than the others.
Google Assistant wins for now
It only makes sense that any of the apps we've described are only compatible with the companies that made them. As you've probably guessed, Siri is a match for Apple products where Cortana is only available on Windows laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
The Google Assistant, on the other hand, is an exception. It works seamlessly on most devices or platforms, although it performs best when you integrate it with Google services. While Alexa works adequately on devices like iPhones, you will find that Alexa works best with Amazon products. Alexa has the potential for exponential growth and development as Amazon becomes a dominant force in the marketplace.