As Siri proved, personal assistant apps should be more, well, personal. Speaktoit not only helps you stay on schedule, works in several languages and on several platforms, but it even tells jokes, adding a bit of levity to an otherwise dull day. Plus, Speaktoit is available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.
Speaktoit gets extra credit for trying to turn a voice-activated assistant into an on-screen avatar. The assistant -- a cartoonish character who speaks with bubble-quotes -- gives you some semblance of human interaction.
By default, the avatar is a white woman with brown hair, blue eyes and an orange tank top.
If you pay for a premium account, you can change the avatar's gender, as well as color of the skin, eyes, nose, mouth, clothes, and, in the case of the male avatars, add a beard and moustache. You can also change hair color and styles -- we especially liked the various mohawk options.
The female voice is friendly, but the male voice, which has a slight British accent, sounded chopped.
However, the results Speaktoit's interface deliver are fairly bland, especially when it comes to queries like weather. We prefer Sherpa's and Google Now's sleeker results, which often include larger illustrations or pictures.
Speaktoit has a fairly diverse range of features. The app can read and send text messages, post to social networks, and perform searches for facts, photos, and weather. This assistant can also send you reminders, and, for fun, can send you brain teasers (called Mental Push-Ups) from time to time.
A premium account costs $3 per month, or $20 for life, which removes all ads and adds a few extra features: You can say "Hey Assistant" to activate the app, and change the look of the avatar. Also, you can get the app to respond to custom commands. For example, you can instruct the app to start the camera when you say the word "cheese."
Not only can Speaktoit read your email (supporting Gmail, Yahoo and other IMAP services), but it can search your emails by subject line or sender.
The app can also read daily news in a specific category such as sports or tech, keep track of tasks, perform simple translations and can even do math for you when you ask about basic calculations. Like Sherpa, Speaktoit can play music. We said "Play Jay-Z," and in a moment, it started playing a random Jay-Z track.
The question "What's the weather like?" returned the local weather for not only the current day, but the evening and the next day as well. Following that up with "What about Chicago?" returned weather results for that city, too. While Sherpa's weather results were more attractive, it didn't understand our follow-up question.
The app also can tell you jokes and riddles, and will often insert a non sequitur into conversation. It might say "things will not get any worse -- but that's not a challenge" as a joke. But Speaktoit might point out it wasn't built for certain functions, such as finding a bus route. The quips are funny and interesting, but in a crowded airport or in the car, they could prove annoying to others.
"I want Chinese food" returned Google search results; Sherpa opened Google Maps with restaurant info.
The question "What is Microsoft?" shows information about the company, but "tell me about Microsoft" just redirects to microsoft.com. Speaktoit was unable to search information about flights, unlike Sherpa.
The app did not correctly identify a contact when we tried to send a text; this feature worked on subsequent tries, but it misspelled our contact's name. We also were able to post an update to Facebook.
Speaktoit supports English, Spanish, Russian, German and Portuguese.
Speaktoit's multilanguage and multiplatform support, fun avatar customization and strong conversational abilities make it one of the better all-around personal assistant apps. We slightly prefer Sherpa, as it offers a more colorful interface and more practical results to everyday questions. But Speaktoit's wide range of features make it a powerful app.