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The rapid growth of AI-based Virtual Assistants is replacing the need for third-party apps in basic day-to-day tasks. The companies keep claiming that these digital assistants are still in their early days, but they have already found their way to your smartphones and smart TVs and whatnot.
There are four leading players giving each other a stiff competition – Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. Chances are your device has one of them. Still, in the meantime, we will put them head-to-head and compare them in terms of accessibility, general voice recognition, understanding and compatibility.
If you already use one of them, you might be able to find a better one in this Alexa vs Siri vs Cortana vs Google Assistant showdown.
Cortana is the smart assistant developed by Microsoft and first presented in 2014. It comes integrated natively in Windows devices and can be downloaded on Android and iOS devices. Cortana uses the Bing Search Engine and user-collected data to give personalized responses and tailored suggestions.
Microsoft wants it to encompass every platform ranging from their own devices to subsidiaries and services like Xbox, Skype and LinkedIn. Although this is greatly curbed by the dominance of Apple and Google in the smartphone market and innovative smart speaker ranges from Amazon.
Cortana has some of the most interesting responses you’ll see, but the hit-or-miss nature of speech recognition and complicated setup makes it lose traction in such a competitive market. Needless to say, Cortana is outclassed by other assistants for now and the places where you’ll find it are Windows PCs and tablets, where it’s the only option for you.
Siri is the oldest AI assistant among the ones from this discussion, and probably the most recognizable voice due to its iconic popularity among the generations. It works with any modern Apple device including their phones, tablets, desktops, macbooks, smartwatches and now the HomePod.
Siri was developed in 2010 by SRI International and bought by Apple a few months later. Given Apple’s hunger for innovation and their tightly integrated ecosystem, it’s no surprise that Siri has advanced a lot since then.
Much like any other assistant here, Siri can perform tasks like scheduling appointments, making reservations, sending and receiving texts and calls, identifying songs, checking email and anything related to web search.
The only deterrent to Siri’s growth has been the platform support and hardware integration. When we compare Siri vs Google Assistant, Google has the advantage of working seamlessly on multiple platforms including iOS itself. Nonetheless, third-party companies are continually working on extending the support for Siri and other voice-assistants, which will boost Siri’s reach beyond Mac and iOS devices.
Google first released its virtual assistant named Google Now in 2012, but it was primarily an extension of Google Search and the company wanted to transform this into a two-way conversational service. Google gradually phased out the term ‘Now’ from Google Now and in 2016, they launched their AI-based Google Assistant which was supposed to be a multi-platform interactive voice assistant.
Given the extent of Google services, Android devices and Chrome, the majority of Internet users have a Google account collecting their data. It lets Google Assistant deliver the most personalized and relevant results among any other AI assistant. Also, unlike other assistants which are mostly limited to their own parent company’s products, Google Assistant integrates well with Android, iOS, Chromebooks as well as a lot of third-party speakers and headphones.
The only thing missing is the support for Windows PCs. As of now there’s no desktop version available for Google Assistant, but Shoeb Shaikh from Devsjournal have found a way to use it on Windows. Check their article on How to Get Google Assistant on Windows 10. Using the Google Assistant SDK and CLI commands, you can get it to work on any desktop machine including Windows, Linux, Mac etc.
Alexa is an AI-based virtual assistant developed and launched by Amazon in 2014. For now, Alexa works the best with Amazon devices including Echo Speaker line, Fire TV, Fire tablets and a handful of third party smart-home devices. Their focus on modern design and smart home appliances shows an incredible growth potential as the range of devices it can integrate itself with is vast in itself.
Alexa has a smartphone application, but it’s primarily meant to act as a controller to other Alexa devices unlike solitary assistants like Siri and Google Assistant. It does manage to get the assistant part right. Alexa can perform simple tasks like playing music, making calls, controlling your smart home, simple web searches and even ordering items off Amazon.
The compatibility with so many devices like speakers, lights, security cameras, locks, headphones is what makes it so special. There are a lot of third-party companies like Sonos, Altec Lansing and Garmin International developing devices that support Alexa. Even some laptop manufacturers like ASUS, HP and Acer have hinted at including Alexa with their machines, which can be a huge growth factor and the final nail in the coffin for Cortana.
Cortana vs Siri vs Google Assistant vs Alexa
1. Voice recognition
A virtual assistant’s primary role is to recognize and assess the user’s voice and speech. They do this by recording the spoken phrase and analyzing it with AI-based Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms. It’s pretty obvious that voice recognition has to be on point for the users to like and continue using the assistant.
In our tests and also coming from the millions of users worldwide, Google Assistant and Siri outclass others when it comes to voice recognition. They do a great job even when there is noise in the environment or when the assistant itself is speaking. Both Cortana and Alexa sometimes struggle to understand what you’re speaking, let alone when there is background sound.
2. AI Capabilities
It’s the AI capability that ultimately defines how powerful and versatile the assistant is, after all they are meant to be ‘smart’. Google has an advantage when it comes to the database of user information and behaviour, and this is reflected in the high-accuracy of their answered questions.
Google and Cortana lead the artificial intelligence portion when it comes to the relevancy of answers. Siri is known to be the funniest, while Alexa is the best for smart home devices. After all they have been identified as the ones with the best speaker, which explains that.
Siri supports the most languages as for now, closely followed by Google and then distant ones being Cortana and Alexa. When it comes to pure AI capabilities and ‘smartness’, Google Assistant wins for now, but Alexa’s broad device integration might be a force in the future.
3. Accuracy & Speed
Both Google Assistant and Siri use Google Search Engine for their results, while Cortana and Alexa use Bing Search Engine. Each one has their own wake-up phrase like “Ok Google”, “Hey Cortana”, “Siri” and “Alexa” which triggers the assistant to start listening to your voice. Using these phrases, we found Google Assistant to be the fastest in providing answers or results.
Both Siri and Alexa are appreciably fast, but Google just feels a bit more responsive. Cortana comes in last, with the most problems regarding recognition. In terms of accuracy, Google is again the clear winner, with Siri and Alexa edging out each other in different search queries, while Cortana is a hit-or-miss.
4. Ease of setup
Although setting them up is a one-time job, it’s still important to consider how much time it takes and how easy it is for a beginner to set up these assistants. All of them have a step-by-step process where you have to customize your preferences and settings.
When it comes to the ease of setup, Cortana is the least fun, while the rest are a breeze to get them up and running. Cortana requires you to log in with a personal email (not linked to school or work), entering the verification code when it arrives and logging in into the Cortana app via the same email.
In contrast, Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri are all simple and quick with their setup. Just turn on the device, connect to a network and log in with your username and password and you’re in.
5. Supported Platforms
One thing that significantly differs between these platforms is the compatibility and supported platforms. Siri is pretty much limited to Apple devices including iOS, Mac and HomePod and you won’t be getting it in Android or Windows devices anytime soon.
On the other hand, Google Assistant and Cortana have apps for both Android and iOS devices, besides being baked into their respective parent operating system. Google Assistant is clearly more popular due to better third-party support and a continuously growing range of supported smart speakers, TVs, headphones and phones.
Amazon recently increased support for Alexa beyond their own products. In addition to their Echo speakers, Fire TVs and other Amazon devices, you’ll also find many third-party manufacturers providing Alexa supported devices from smart kettles to smart plugs.
6. Fundamental Tasks
Apart from basic web search, we also put Siri vs Alexa vs Cortana vs Google Assistant head-to-head in tasks like opening apps, making calls, setting reminders and playing music. This is where all of these assistants are on par with each other and there weren’t any major issues with either.
All of them do the same basic tasks like the ones mentioned above besides some minor quirks and unique features. While Google and Cortana can play both music on your phone and Spotify, Siri only likes to play it on Apple Music. It also opens up the sites in Safari, unlike native opening with Google Assistant.
We found that Alexa is somewhat restraining in terms of what commands it will understand. It’s more suited for Amazon and smart home applications rather than a standalone AI assistant. In contrast, Google is a bit smarter with getting the relevant information and more forgiving when it comes to understanding what you say. Siri is up there followed by Alexa and Cortana.
7. Extra Features
Some of the features of these assistants depend upon the platform you’re using. For example, Google Assistant allows you to control smart home devices, access and mark your calendar, real time translation, play content on a Chromecast device and more. Similarly, Alexa can also control compatible smart home appliances, set up reminders, alarms, read news aloud, stream content on Amazon Fire devices.
Alexa is clearly the winner in terms of its compatibility with devices and apps, but Google and eventually Apple are trying to catch up. Siri and Cortana will provide a wide variety of tasks too, and each of them is capable of pulling information from their ecosystem services to show personalized results and control apps.
Conclusion – Who wins the battle?
So, which personal assistant is better among Siri, Google, Cortana and Alexa. Well, most people will agree that Google Assistant is the smartest, but others have a lot going for them too.
Siri is the wittiest, the one that allows to have long conversations but is unfortunately tied to Apple devices only. Amazon’s Alexa isn’t the smartest or as dynamic as Google or Siri, but it extends support to hundreds of smart devices and appliances making it ideal for smart homes. Cortana is not the favourite one and is losing its pace gradually, and we don’t see Microsoft trying to improve that situation.
The choice of virtual assistant won’t depend on what’s the best or smartest, but what do you need it for and most importantly, the device you’re using it on. If you still want us to pick one, it would be either Siri or Google Assistant.