The Samsung Galaxy S III has a lot of unique features, but there's no denying that S Voice looks like a carbon copy of Apple's Siri for the iPhone 4S. Like Siri, S Voice can do things like compose text messages, give you the weather, recommend restaurants and create appointments by responding to your spoken commands. And Samsung's interface has a very familiar look and feel to Apple's. But that doesn't mean these assistants are created equal.
We put S Voice and Siri through a five-round battle to determine a winner.
To make our face-off as fair as possible, we conducted our tests using a 4G MiFi hotspot. After lining up the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S III side-by-side, we opened their respective personal assistant apps and then clicked on their voice activation keys simultaneously.
Round 1: Weather
In the first round, we started with a simple question: "What's the forecast for tomorrow?"
Siri: Completed in 3.61 seconds. Siri doesn't provide a particularly impressive graphic for the weather, but it lists the highs and lows for each day of the week.
S Voice: Completed in 3.77 seconds. Compared to the iPhone, S Voice features more detailed illustrations when displaying the weather, but doesn't give as long a forecast as Siri unless requested. In subsequent tests S Voice wouldn't answer our question at all due to network errors.
WINNER: Siri wins this round for providing a more detailed forecast and for being more reliable.
Round 2: Scheduling an Appointment
In the second round, we asked Siri and S Voice to schedule lunch with a co-worker.
Siri: Completed in 8.80 seconds. Siri asks you to confirm the appointment; once you've done so, it displays the date and time of the meeting and announces aloud the name of the person with whom you've scheduled the appointment. This feature allows you to make an appointment without ever having to look at the screen to double-check that you've invited the right person.
S Voice: Completed in 5.13 seconds. Like Siri, S Voice asks you to confirm the appointment; once confirmed, it displays the date and time of the meeting as well as the name of the contact. Sadly, it doesn't say the name of the person out loud --a neat trick of Siri's that we wish S Voice would emulate.
WINNER: Although we like that Siri announced the name of our contact, this round goes to S Voice because it was faster.
Round 3: Getting Directions
In the third round, we asked Siri and S Voice for directions to 1410 Broadway, New York, NY.
Siri: Completed in 11.83 seconds. Siri announces that its found directions to the location you specified, and then takes you outside of the app to bring up the Maps app.
S Voice: Completed in 8.03 seconds. Like Siri, S Voice takes you outside of the app to bring up the Google Maps application. However, unlike Siri, S Voice automatically connects the Galaxy S III to Google Navigation to provide spoken turn-by-turn directions.
WINNER: S Voice completed the task faster and offers spoken turn-by-turn navigation, making it the clear winner when searching for directions. Hopefully, Siri can catch up with iOS 6.
Round 4: Looking for Restaurants
In the fourth round, we asked Siri and S Voice what Mexican restaurants we could find in our area.
Siri: Completed in 5.53 seconds. Siri displays the names, addresses and star ratings of restaurants in your area that match your description (in this case, Mexican). When iOS 6 rolls out, Siri will also feature Yelp recommendations and OpenTable integration, so you can make reservations right from the results screen.
The app already sports contextual intelligence, meaning that if you ask a follow-up question about the same topic (for instance, "What about steak houses?"), Siri knows that you're still talking about restaurants. This makes conversations with the app feel much more intuitive.
S Voice: Completed in 6.76 seconds. S Voice also displays the names, addresses and star ratings of local restaurants. You can voice dial the restaurants directly from the app, an option that is not available on Siri. However, S Voice isn't as smart as Siri; when we asked it the same question about steak houses, S Voice didn't understand the question.
WINNER: We like that S Voice lets you dial restaurants right from the results screen, but Siri wins this round because of its ability to understand questions based on context.
Round 5: Special Features
Siri: In addition to its "contextual intelligence," Siri offers a number of other unique features such as the ability to ask where a company's stock currently stands and the ability to tell jokes. In addition, Siri enables you to create reminders that tie in with your location. So, for example, you can say "Remind me to get milk when I get home."
S Voice: S Voice offers a number of unique features that Siri lacks (for the moment, anyway), such as dictating Twitter updates using your voice, as well as the ability to toggle features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You can also use S Voice to open apps, though we experienced mixed results.
WINNER: Although Siri is more fun to talk to and knows your whereabouts, S Voice has more functionality right now.
Overall Winner: Siri
In the face-off between voice-powered personal assistants, Siri and S Voice are good at different things. Siri provides a more natural sounding voice and delivers a more conversational experience. However, at the moment, S Voice boasts greater functionality. Samsung's personal assistant offers a number of unique features including the ability to toggle settings, post Tweets and call restaurants directly from the app.
Where Siri pulls ahead is reliability. While S Voice offered faster performance in this video (an average of 5.9 seconds per answer for 7.4 for Siri) we've encountered a lot more bugs in Samsung's assistant than Apple's beta product. At times during our testing S Voice would refuse to function at all, answering queries with "Say 'Hi Galaxy' to wake me up." (It later recovered.)
S Voice is certainly competent, but with new Siri features in iOS 6 just around the corner--like restaurants, movie listings and the ability to post to both Facebook and Twitter, it looks like Apple will soon widen its lead.