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Want Siri on Your Android Phone? Try These Apps

Edward N. Albro | Nov. 9, 2011
Wouldn't you like to have your very own gofer dedicated to doing all the menial tasks you hate?

Vlingo

Vlingo is one of the few Android assistants that doesn't rely exclusively on Google's voice recognition system. You can choose to use Google's system or Vlingo's home-grown processing. My advice is to stick with Google. I tried Vlingo's voice recognition and found it generally disappointing.

In fact, I was disappointed by this free app overall. It couldn't perform a number of functions--such as reading me my calendar or setting an alarm--at all. Even odder were capabilities that it had one day and seemed to lose the next. The first time I tested Vlingo, for instance, it did a competent job of preparing an email message. But the next time I asked it to "send an email," it simply offered to Google the phrase "send an email."

Vlingo does have some bright spots. It can send tweets and update your Facebook status. Also, when you give Vlingo a command, it continues listening to you until you press Done. Many other systems stop listening as soon as they detect a pause, forcingyoutospeakreallyfastsothattheydon'tcutoffbeforeyou'redone.

Next: Jeannie and Eva Intern

Jeannie

Up until about a week ago, this app was called Voice Actions, just like the Google app. To end the confusion, the third-party developer, Pannous, changed the name of its app to Jeannie (it still shows up on my phone as Voice Actions, however, even though I've updated the app). Jeannie is free. Alternatively you can purchase a $3 Voice Actions Plus app with the same capabilities. Pannous says that the Plus version of the app should process your speech more quickly.

Unfortunately, signing up Jeannie as your personal assistant is a bit like hiring a slacker with a poor work ethic. When I asked Jeannie to send a text, for instance, it asked for the recipient's name, but then just switched me to my texting app, without starting the text or adding the name of the recipient. (Jeannie can be a bit passive-aggressive, too. It asked whether I wanted to leave it to go to my texting app. When I said "Okay," it responded "Okay by me, too." Ouch.)

Other things Jeannie did were just mysterious. It set an alarm when I asked it to, and the alarm went off right on schedule, but I couldn't figure out how to turn it off because Jeannie hadn't set it using Android's built-in alarm system. When I asked Jeannie to take a note, it started recording me--but never showed me what it had transcribed. Instead, it simply said "Done," and then told me I could send the note by email "later." It wasn't clear to me how.

One of my tasks involved asking each of the personal assistants to get me Apple's stock price. Many of them fell short in various ways--giving me a general market report, for instance. But Jeannie's response was the most surreal: It searched the Web for images of apples and presented those to me.

 

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