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    14 February 2018

    James Francis

    Siri, Google Assistant or Bixby: Which is the best VPA?

    Pressing buttons is so last year! Today’s mobile user is spoilt for choice among Virtual Personal Assistants (VPA), those apps that let you tell your phone what to do.

    Pressing buttons is so last year! Today’s mobile user is spoilt for choice among Virtual Personal Assistants, those apps that let you tell your phone what to do. But that doesn’t mean these VPAs are all the same, so we took on the hard task to ask our phones a few questions…

    Apple Siri


    Siri has been around since 2010 and she still sets the benchmark for virtual personal assistants. You can say ‘Hey Siri’, or press and hold the navigation button. This grabs the app’s attention and it will do what you say next.

    How does Siri sound?

    Siri offers a very South African accent, though with a machine-like edge that makes you aware it is a computer you are talking to. Only a woman’s voice is available in a local accent and the SA brogue is not as smooth as the other accent options. Still, she certainly sounds like a local lass!

    Can Siri talk about the weather?

    Siri is chatty about the weather, giving a look at the forecast right now and what to expect as the day progresses. It also pops up a useful chart courtesy of the Weather Channel. You can ask a follow-up question such as ‘and tomorrow?’, and you can get quite specific, such as asking the temperature in a spot at 6am tomorrow.

    Can Siri Take Notes?

    Siri is pretty slick with note taking and you can even give basic commands such as ‘next line’ to go to the next line. Just don’t pause or it stops writing. You can keep the channel open with some humming, though! Siri could keep pace with our bad covers of rap songs, but got almost none of the words right. That may be though because we are just awful.

    Can Siri play a song?

    Not unless it's through iTunes. Siri has only recently allowed third-party apps to use its commands, and many such as YouTube are not yet supported.

    Can Siri send a WhatsApp message?

    Yes, it can! WhatsApp is one of the few third party apps that integrate with Siri, so it’s a simple matter of saying who to send the message to, what it should say and then send it - all without touching the phone.

    Can Siri tell a joke?

    No, Siri does not know jokes. It even tells you that when you ask. If you keep pushing, it will attempt a joke and give up. In fact, Siri is not very giving at all. Ask who Siri is and it will tell you it doesn’t like talking about itself. It won’t even sing a song. Siri is grumpy.

    Google Assistant

    It’s not a leap to consider Google Assistant as the biggest competitor to Siri’s crown, and some already argue that Google’s VPA is actually the best one around. That’s despite only being released last year (but it does build on 2014’s Google Now). To access it, say ‘Okay Google’ to your phone or hold in the home (middle) button.

    How does Google Assistant sound?

    At the moment Google Assistant only has one voice option, sounding somewhat like a British woman. There is no setting for changing the voice and if you ask the Assistant about it, it replies: 'I’m afraid I can’t sound very manly at present. Watch this space.'

    Can Google Assistant talk about the weather?

    Utilising weather.com data, Google Assistant seems quite certain about the weather. It even gives a written text comment, such as ‘Looks pleasant outside’ or ‘Take an umbrella.’ It also tracks follow-up questions. But Google Assistant can’t seem to give time-specific weather information.

    Can Google Assistant take a note?

    Can it? Good question… Google Assistant has no problem responding to ‘take a note,’ which can be assigned to the built-in Memos app. But blink and it will stop recording your musings. Also, Google Assistant utterly failed to keep up with dictating our bad cover of rap songs. Of its 99 problems, talking too fast seems to be one!

    Can Google Assistant play a song?

    Assuming you don’t have a music app installed, what does Google Assistant do when you ask to play a certain song or artist? Here the integration with other apps is pretty neat, allowing you to choose one of several apps. We chose YouTube, so it then found and played the track there.

    Can Google Assistant send a WhatsApp message?

    Google Assistant works very well with WhatsApp, even asking us which is the correct person to message. An added perk is that the screen will show responses you can use, either by saying them or tapping on them.

    Can Google Assistant tell a joke?

    Yes, and as expected, they are bad jokes. What did the toilet say to the other toilet? You look a bit flushed. Why is a pet tree better than a pet dog? Its bark is quiet. Google Assistant then offers buttons you can press to get another joke - or you can just ask it for one more. As a bonus, you can ask Google Assistant to tell you something fun and it usually does. It will even sing a song.

    Samsung Bixby 

    How does Bixby sound?

    Like the previous two VPA’s, Bixbys default voice is female and know as ‘Stephanie’. Like Siri, you can change both the region and the gender of Bixby, but as of yet you can’t get a South Africa accent.

    Can Google Assistant talk about the weather?

    You can ask but for now Bixby will simply direct you to your default weather app. It may recommend you take an umbrella out if it’s raining though.

    Can Bixby take a note?

    Yes, simply ask Bixby to take a memo, then either dictate what you want to say or write it down.

    Can Bixby play a song?

    Bixby can both rap and sing

    Can Bixby send a Whatsapp message?

    Yes, but you’ll have to teach it how to first. Bixby can access a number of different messaging apps but will use the default mesage provider unless you specifiy which messenger you want to use.

    Can Bixby tell a joke?

    Not only can Bixby tell a joke or two, it has been known to throw shade at some of it’s competitors as well. Users in Korea have noted that wehn you ask Bixby to perform a song or rap, the first word of each line ends up reading as ‘I am better than Siri’.

    James Francis