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Siri-ously? Can we find a decent voice assistant for Android?

by Marty Gabel

Siri voice assistant alternatives are being marketed to Android devices with alarming regularity. Since the Siri technology was first embedded into iOS 5 on the new iPhone 4S (even though a Siri app had been available for some time), a number of Android developers have brought similar apps to Android. There’s also been a number of voice assistant apps that have been available for quite a while.

Google’s Android OS already has built-in voice commands. It may not be as personalized or sophisticated as Siri, or have captured the public’s imagination, but the technology has been around for a while. It can do things like search, call people, send text messages and so on. Still, it is a little devoid of personality and not always 100 percent accurate. So how do some of the new (and old) Siri alternatives for Android shape-up?

Does Cluzee have a clue?

Just released this week was Cluzee, which received one major media shout-out, but is being ridiculed by actual users. BGR wrote about this app, claiming it to be Siri’s first real competition. “We’ve spent the past day testing the app and it has worked quite well for us so far,” wrote Zach Epstein. “The scope of available commands is far more narrow that Siri’s, but there is plenty of functionality in this first public build of the app and we have high hopes for future versions.”

Opinion within the Android Market, however, is much more critical. With just an average two-star rating from over 600 so far (including over 350 one-star rankings), clearly many Android users aren’t so convinced. Many user reviews claim that there’s definitely some potential here, but constant force-close problems and instability issues are evidently hampering things a bit. A Siri-killer it most certainly isn’t, but perhaps with a few more updates, things will get better.

The Skyvi’s the limit

There’s also Skyvi, and so far, this has been received a bit more positively. It’s certainly not perfect, but is at least respectable. One thing that is interesting is that a lot of folks seem to be having fun with Skyvi. The results aren’t always right, but heck, at least they’re getting a laugh or two out of it. Once again, it doesn’t appear to be quite as competent as Siri yet, but it’s still a viable alternative for Android users to to download for free.

Tried and tested

It’s encouraging to see some Siri-like apps making their way to Android. The thing is, for a while now, Android already had a bunch of decent voice-assistant apps prior to Siri stealing all the headlines. For example, Vlingo Voice Assistant has been out for well over a year, garnered over a million downloads already, and has an average of 4.3 stars from almost 30,000 reviews. If that isn’t proof that Android already has some great voice assistant apps, I’m not sure what is. Vlingo lets you call people, send SMS or email, voice dial, search the web, find local restaurants and much more. It’s always getting updated and continues to improve. Plus, you don’t need a brand new iPhone 4S to use it. Sure, it might not be as pretty or have the ‘cool factor’ of Siri, but if it gets the job done, that’s good enough.

There’s also Speaktoit Assistant, featuring a lovely buddy who will answer your questions or perform various tasks like finding information or launching applications. It doesn’t seem as popular in terms of downloads as Vlingo, but it has been well received and garnered some good reviews. Once again, there’s a ‘fun’ element here and it has a personalized feel that matches Siri somewhat.

So for now, maybe it’s better for Android users to steer away from some of the more recent Siri clones which are clearly trying to cash-in on the iOS assistant’s popularity, and stick to some of the apps which have already proven successful and are often updated. If you don’t like one, there’s probably another one you can download instead, and perhaps within a few months even Cluzee will match the functionality of its peers.

Whichever way you look it, Android users are siri-ously (sorry) spoiled for choice for when it comes to free voice assistant apps.