As Amazon Echo continues to gain momentum in the marketplace, people are starting to compare it more and more to Apple’s Siri. While certain fans of Amazon’s Alexa AI get bent out of shape when this happens, the fact is it’s a sign of the technology actually threatening one of the biggest tech giants out there.
To be honest, Echo doesn’t always come out on top. Siri is everywhere you go, at least if you own Apple devices like an iPhone or iPad (Siri’s coming for Mac in the near future). You can use Siri to dictate emails and text messages, plus place phone calls without physically dialing a number. Those admittedly are some pretty handy features that any Apple user can be proud of.
Also, when it comes to apps Siri wins big. You can go to the App Store with an Apple device and spend all day looking through the different options. It’s not just that the iPhone has been around for a long time, it’s that so many developers have jumped on the Apple bandwagon. At the moment, the Echo has about 300 “skills” or apps available. While you can connect it to other smart devices that can help expand Alexa’s abilities indirectly, it still doesn’t even begin to rival all of the apps available through Apple.
Having said all that, the truth is that Amazon’s Echo is hands-down better than Siri.
Accuracy differences are huge.
How many times do you need to ask Siri the same thing? It doesn’t matter if your iPhone is on the table in front of you, or in your hands and right in front of your mouth, half the time Siri just doesn’t hear you correctly until you say the same thing over and over. Or, you can just talk really slowly and annunciate every syllable as clearly as possible, hoping that Siri gets what you’re asking. The worst is when Siri mishears what you say and starts doing something different from what you needed, because it takes ever more time to make the correct request. It can be incredibly frustrating.
Alexa, on the other hand, is a language master. While she’s not perfect, you can make a verbal request using your Echo and get what you wanted on the first try just about every time. The difference in the user experience is huge, and it’s one that should make Apple work on improving Siri.
Alexa is faster.
Plain and simple, Siri is slower at responding to commands. If you only use Apple devices, you’d think that Siri is actually pretty quick at doing whatever you ask. The fact is the AI always waits a moment before responding to your voice commands.
You can chalk this up to that fact that Siri is now ancient when it comes to AIs – the tech was launched by Apple back in 2011. Her age is showing, and for now it seems that Apple’s not doing anything to speed up her responses.
If you have an Apple device and an Echo, you can actually time how quickly the two respond to any inquiries. If not, maybe you can take out your iPhone when visiting a friend who has Echo. What you’ll find is that Alexa takes just a fraction of the time Siri does to respond, which is a big deal when you’re in a hurry. The Amazon tech makes it feel more like you’re talking to another person, almost like you have a 24-7 personal assistant inside your house.
There’s a reason why people pay out big money for speakers they can connect their iPhone or iPad to. You just can’t compare the quality of the sound coming out of Echo’s speakers with an Apple device, because it’s like night and day.
This is a big plus for music, of course, plus listening to audio books, podcasts, etc. It also makes a difference when you’re listening to a response to one of your commands. The speakers on the Echo are so powerful, you can hear it pretty much anywhere in an average house, if you crank up the volume enough. Apple devices, on the other hand, just can’t match these abilities.
More microphones are better.
Amazon was smart and designed Echo with seven different embedded microphones. Yes, seven, and that makes a tremendous difference. It’s like the company realized that people would be at home, not even near the device, and want to use it. After all, that’s kind of the point of the technology.
You can be sitting in the next room, maybe even two or more rooms over, and Alexa will hear your request to play a song, provide movie show times, or whatever. This is true even if there’s noise inside your house, like you’re cooking or running water.
With Siri, it’s a completely different story. Even with the device in your hand, the AI might get distracted by the sound of your dog barking or a person knocking on your door. Nobody lives in a noise-free bubble and Apple should’ve accounted for that, but it didn’t. The most frustrating thing is when you’re making a list, dictating an email, etc. and Siri picks up a conversation, the radio or the television and starts inserting those words with yours. Echo’s smart enough to know the difference, and that makes the device far superior.
Amazon keeps customers in the loop.
Apple could learn a thing or two from Amazon about how to do updates. Every Friday Echo users get an email that details all of the improvements to Alexa, including new skills and features they can take advantage of.
Your average person probably uses only a fraction of Siri’s abilities, because nobody knows what they are. Even big Apple enthusiasts stumble across new features, which can be fun but at the same time is frustrating. After all, wouldn’t it be great to have known those existed all along? Keeping consumers in the loop when it comes to updates just enriches the user experience, and that’s always a good thing.
More competition coming.
Even though Amazon Echo outdoes Siri on a number of points, it’s worth noting that others are working on one-upping Alexa. One is SoundHound, which has about a decade of experience with voice recognition software. Some Apple and Android users might be familiar with SoundHound apps. The company’s getting serious about getting its software embedded on a number of devices, which could pose a threat to Amazon. There are others as well, which is always the case when a company starts seeing success.