Will Google Now Dethrone Siri?

Benzinga By Louis Bedigian, Benzinga Staff Writer. Originally posted here. 

It only took a few days for 10 million iOS users to replace Apple's (AAPL) disappointing (and occasionally dangerous) Maps app with Google Maps (GOOG).

Will users do the same and quickly replace Siri with Google Now?

After developing Google Now exclusively for Android, Google has decided to add this popular feature to the Search app already available on iOS devices.

"Google Now is about giving you just the right information at just the right time," Google engineer Andrea Huey wrote on the company's official blog.

"It can show you the day's weather as you get dressed in the morning, or alert you that there's heavy traffic between you and your butterfly-inducing date -- so you'd better leave now! It can also share news updates on a story you've been following, remind you to leave for the airport so you can make your flight and much more. There's no digging required: cards appear at the moment you need them most -- and the more you use Google Now, the more you get out of it."

Thus far, the user reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.

"Wow…" one user, jsuresh, wrote in a review posted on the Google Search page within iTunes. "Best of Google."

"Awesome," another user, benb9214, wrote. "The best search app!"

A third user, ecsos, gave the Search app a five-star rating but said that the iPhone 4S triggers an unexpected bug.

"On iPhone 4S having Location Services enabled during the Google Now tutorial can crash your iPhone very consistently," ecsos wrote. "Tried on multiple 4S's. Disable the location service for it then it can work after the tutorial is done."

That could be a problem for iPhone 4S users. According to Google's description, the app turns on Location Services in order to provide "up-to-the-minute information."

Siri became a built-in app after Apple acquired its creator, so users will not find an area to post reviews within iTunes. That has not stopped users from sharing their opinions, however.

"I doubt many iPhone users (or potential iPhone users) fire up Siri just for fun anymore," MIT Technology Review's John Pavlus wrote earlier this year. "If they invoke her at all, it's most likely to do something that she's actually good at, like setting an alarm or a reminder -- anything simple enough to be barked out unambiguously in two seconds or less.

"…Asking Siri about the weather? Swiping iOS's Notification Center tray down is faster and simpler. Doing simple conversions, like 'what is three feet in centimeters'? Siri may still misunderstand you (I just tried this), and even if she doesn't, the overstuffed data sheet from Wolfram Alpha that she coughs up is a lot harder to read at a glance than the large-type, boldface result you get by just punching '3ft in cm' into Google."

HuffPo Tech's Anick Jesdanun also found fault with Siri but said that it has some advantages over Google Now.

"To be clear, Siri is the better of the two -- as a voice assistant," Jesdanun wrote Tuesday morning. "She'll always respond with something, even if it's to seek clarification. Google Now will often remain silent, sometimes giving you no more than a list of websites. Google Now's assistant also lacks Siri's feistiness and sense of humor. Siri, for instance, has more than a dozen witty responses to queries about the meaning of life. I compared the two for a review in March, so I won't dwell on that here.

"Where Google Now shines is in anticipating your questions. Open the Google Search app, and you'll see cards fill the screen with useful information."

When Siri was first released as a built-in app two years ago, analysts praised the potential for the new app. That praise was not shared by tech bloggers, however.

"I admit it: I had been dazzled by those catchy television commercials showing tough-talking actor Samuel L. Jackson and the ever-adorable actress/singer Zooey Deschanel doing their mundane household chores assisted by Siri, the voice-activated system on the new iPhone," MarketWatch's Jon Friedman wrote. "In other words, I bought the Apple-generated hype. I was a sucker."

CNNMoney published the most damaging quote of all when a former insider told the publication that Apple employees were "embarrassed by Siri."

"Steve [Jobs] would have lost his mind over Siri," the former insider added.

Siri initially became famous for providing comical responses to various questions. Instead of using an upgraded version to promote the iPhone 5, Apple chose to focus on the device's redesign and its brand-new Maps app. While the redesign proved to be popular with consumers, the Maps app has been largely regarded as the company's biggest software development mistake.

That said, Siri is still regarded as a much more polished app than Maps. Consequently, Google may not be able to replace Siri as easily as it replaced Apple's infamous Maps app.


Louis Bedigian is the Senior Tech Analyst and Features Writer of Benzinga. You can reach him at 248-636-1322 or louis(at)benzingapro(dot)com. Follow him @LouisBedigianBZ