Why I Won’t Be Using Google’s New iPhone Voice Search

Google's search app for iPhone just got a big upgrade, with improved voice search that supports natural-language questions, just like Apple's Siri. Yet, I don't see myself using it.

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Jared Newman / TIME.com

Google’s search app for iPhone just got a big upgrade, with improved voice search that supports natural-language questions, just like Apple’s Siri.

I tried it on my iPhone 5, and it’s pretty slick. When I asked, “What movies are playing tonight?” the app almost immediately spit back a search-results page with local movie listings on top. Siri stuttered on the same question, first digesting the words, then showing some text that said it was looking into it, then finally showing a neatly formatted list of films.

Google’s app can answer a healthy range of questions too. It can tell you the weather, flight status, sports scores and stocks. It knows trivia, translates languages, does math and performs unit conversions. It can suggest places to eat and give the dates of upcoming events. In terms of answering questions, it’s a pretty close rival to Siri, and it’s often faster to respond.

Yet I don’t see myself using it on the iPhone 5.

That’s partly due to the nature of Apple’s iOS software. On the iPhone, you can’t add widgets or otherwise tell third-party apps to do things directly from the home screen. That means you can’t run a Google voice search without opening the app and then tapping the search button. It’s not a huge issue, but it’s an extra step or two compared with using Siri, which can launch from anywhere.

The bigger issue is that Google’s app doesn’t do everything that Siri does. While the app can look up information using Google’s Knowledge Graph, it can’t set reminders, make restaurant reservations, create calendar appointments or pen messages in Gmail. It can’t remind me of upcoming appointments or events or warn me about traffic. And for directions — the one thing I use voice search for the most — Google’s app doesn’t lead to Apple Maps but to its own Web app, which doesn’t do turn-by-turn voice guidance. (And for all the griping about Apple Maps, it works fine in my neck of the woods.)

So yes, essentially I’d love for Google’s search app to become more like Google Now and the full Google voice search on Android phones — a full-blown virtual assistant rather than a basic search tool. I don’t need an app that’s faster at some of the things Siri does but one that’s better overall. (As an aside, though, if Google’s voice-search capabilities made it into the Chrome browser for iOS, that would be awesome.)

Still, there is one good thing to come of Google’s new iOS voice search, whether you use it or not. As John Gruber points out, it’s a target for Apple — something whose speed the Siri team should aspire to match. If Google’s app motivates Apple to whip Siri into shape, everyone’s better off.

35 comments
IrishPark
IrishPark

Personally would rather use the android...but for my email inbox management nothing can bet the new smartphone apps called talkler!!...eyes-free and hands-free that is as known  “email for your ears”. It's a free smartphone app that's voice-controlled, and reads your emails aloud to you.

GMoney
GMoney

Google Voice Search is a taste for iOS users of what it would be like to run on an Android phone. The biggest complaint you have is one of integration, and it has that in spades on the Android devices. I think that a lot of this new strategy is an attempt to give iOS user a trial and easy migration path away from iOS and onto Android. By making all of these services so readily available, it becomes a lot easier to switch from one platform to another.

jgreenedzp
jgreenedzp

Chrome on iOS has voice search... clear the address/search field and there is a little mic icon... real research in your journalism here.

skellener
skellener

Why is there a need to stay with one over the other?  You can use both apps for what they are good at.  You have BOTH!!!  I only have a 3GS and now have access to something similar to Siri and it works great thanks to Google. - not Apple.

ukjaybrat
ukjaybrat

"Google's app doesn't do everything that Siri does."

I understand this is a review of the Google Voice Search app specific to iOS. However, you shouldn't say that Google's app can't do this or Google's app can't do that. Because the app CAN do those things, but iOS will not allow it to do so. The same applies with Google Maps. It CAN do turn by turn navigation, but iOS will not allow it. Misleading comments such as yours, whether intended or not, is what causes masses of uninformed android haters to think that the Google Apps are inferior to their iOS counterparts when actually they are much greater apps being restricted to the shackles of iOS.

AlexCotman
AlexCotman

The author of this article's fanboyism is showing. 

kangaruhs
kangaruhs

"The bigger issue is that Google’s app doesn’t do everything that Siri does. While the app can look up information using Google’s Knowledge Graph, it can’t set reminders, make restaurant reservations, create calendar appointments or pen messages in Gmail. It can’t remind me of upcoming appointments or events, or warn me about traffic. And for directions–the one thing I use voice search for the most–Google’s app doesn’t lead to Apple Maps, but to its own web app, which doesn’t do turn-by-turn voice guidance. (And for all the griping about Apple Maps, it works fine in my neck of the woods.)"

You're kidding, right? Apple blocks all 3rd party apps from being able to do these things, and Google Search + Google Now on modern Android phones can do all these things.

You are settling for Siri on iPhone, because Google Search cannot do what Apple blocks it from doing.

This is reporting?

cnichols55
cnichols55

I think this is a great alternative for IOS devices that don't have the full Siri implementation (Like my iPhone 4). It may result in people moving from iPhones to a quality Android phone. They will get a taste of the apps power and want the full blown capabilities.

GV
GV

what kind of stupid review is this...? Seriously, instead of pointing out the stupid limitations in IOS, you are saying you wouldn't use the superior product...way to go!!!

MichaelReed
MichaelReed

So, in essence you refuse to use the superior application because of a limitation of the OS, and that it is limited by the OS in the maps it opens.

Yeesh, fanboism is depressing.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@jgreenedzp Thanks for the suggestion. It's not the same though, since it doesn't return spoken answers, and answer questions as well. (For example, the question "are there any good restaurants around here" doesn't work in the Chrome version of voice search.)

harveylubin
harveylubin

@skellener 

The point of the article is that the Google app is not a replacement for Siri (for those who have Siri), because it isn't system-wide, and it can't perform the administrative functions that Siri can (like setting reminders or launching apps).

harveylubin
harveylubin

@ukjaybrat "It CAN do turn by turn navigation, but iOS will not allow it."

Actually, it is not Apple that would not allow Google's turn by turn navigation... it was Google that refused to provide this and other missing features from the Android version. This was the main reason why Apple decided it had to create its own maps app, so that iOS users could get turn by turn navigation and voice prompts.

harveylubin
harveylubin

@AlexCotman 

Exactly. When someone comments like you have, about an article on a topic that you are not a fanboy of, it DOES show your "fanboyism".

Here's a suggestion: Instead of being masochistic, and wasting your time and energy reading articles that are not about your fanboy interests, try reading only the articles that cover your fanboy interests. You'll feel a lot happier. ;-)

zcaslin
zcaslin

@cnichols55 @cnichols55 Quality android phone?

ChadStevens
ChadStevens

@GV So many people hate Apple products, i'm one of them.  But keep in mind these devices are built for the average non-technical person.  These products are meant to give our grandmothers a hassle-free way to use technology.  iOS is locked so your grandmother cannot screw it up.  You should be happy Apple loves your grandma this much!

ChadStevens
ChadStevens

@MichaelReed I don't think this guy read the article either.  The title made me think the article was bashing Google but it actually turned into a quality review of the app when running on iOS.  I hope Google developers get a chance to read this and find a way to allow the Google voice search to open apps and do other advanced features that work directly with the operating system instead of just running a simple google search.  Side note... the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the most amazing device I've ever owned!

ChrisMichael
ChrisMichael

@MichaelReed did you read he article? It's not superior because it can't do half the things that siri is capable of. Why would I want to unlock my phone to use that app when I can use siri while my phone is locked? Stop being an iOS hating ***hole.

ukjaybrat
ukjaybrat

@harveylubin

"Actually, it is not Apple that would not allow Google's turn by turn navigation... it was Google that refused to provide this and other missing features from the Android version."

Well if you want to get down to "he said-she said" tactics. Technically, the disagreement arose because Google wanted clear Google branding and Latitude integration. Apple did not want to advertise for Google in their own app nor did they want the Latitude integration. Well, Google said that Apple can't have just the parts they want if they don't take everything (specifically the parts that make google money, the branding and location based ads). So Google kept the turn by turn navigation in Android devices.

All that being said, the point of my arguement was that you can't just say a blanket statement like "Google's app can't do [something]." Because then when a misinformed individual is choosing to buy a phone, they think "oh the iPhone can do turn by turn navigation but Google's phone can't, so i'm going to buy the iphone... what an easy decision," all because of a misphrased arguement in a puff piece.

cnichols55
cnichols55

@zcaslin I know it sounds like an oxymoron but let's face it, the two companies are doing a great job incorporating enough duplicate functionality so no one is missing out and enough creative differences to appeal to separate audiences. This is why we have such extreme hate on both sides. I say quality android phone because not all Android phones are created equally. And while some would like to compare iPhone to Android, the real comparison is only at the individual models. 

ChrisMichael
ChrisMichael

@ChadStevens @GV enjoy the constant crashes and reboots. Once they start you're doomed. Then you start getting text messages hours late. I'm never going back to android.

harveylubin
harveylubin

@Gnabergasher @harveylubin @skellener 

Of course Apple doesn't allow any third party developer (not just Google) the ability to control system-level functions. This is SOP for any operating system... that is, any operating system that doesn't want viruses and its users' personal information to be stolen.

harveylubin
harveylubin

@GMoney @harveylubin @ukjaybrat 

Of course Apple doesn't allow any third party developer (not just Google) the ability to control system-level functions. This is SOP for any operating system... that is, any operating system that doesn't want viruses and its users' personal information to be stolen.

GMoney
GMoney

@harveylubin @ukjaybrat To be fair, the system level things can ONLY be done by Siri because Apple has not (and currently doesn't intend to) provided an API for integration with the service on the front end or the back end. The bottleneck is actually Apple in these cases more than it is the providers of services who are unable to provide full experiences on the platform. As a developer I still like the potential of the iPhones audience, but there are more capabilities on the other platforms and that's where I'm starting to spend more of my time... and that's the case with a lot of other mobile devs.

harveylubin
harveylubin

@ukjaybrat "because Google wanted clear Google branding and Latitude integration." 

Yes, being held for ransom, plus the terrible fiasco with Google stealing Safari user’s information without their knowledge or consent, made Apple's decision to drop Google's maps very easy.

"when a misinformed individual is choosing to buy a phone, they think "oh the iPhone can do turn by turn navigation but Google's phone can't"

No one has said that or even implied that Android phones can't do turn by turn navigation. Everyone knows that Google provides turn by turn navigation on Android phones... They just never provided it on iPhones.

The other point is that the Google search app does have voice integration, but it is only within that app, and it can't (no matter what you may believe) do the many system level things that Siri can do.

ChadStevens
ChadStevens

@ChrisMichael I think you fit into this "grandma" category.  The android system crashes if you're doing something wrong.  You should probably stick with apple products if you aren't very technical.

ChrisMichael
ChrisMichael

@zcaslin let's see...I went through 3 evo 3d's and 2 galaxy s3's. I'm glad my iphone doesn't have a removable battery because I got so sick off taking them out.

ChrisMichael
ChrisMichael

@GV @ChrisMichael you fandroids started it. Why are you always hanging around articles talking about apple products? You should get a life.

zcaslin
zcaslin

@ChrisMichael Hell my Nexus 7 opens and closes apps by itself, then freezes and lockes up. That must be new feature coming in shit sandwich.

GV
GV

@ChrisMichael here come the fartboy... thats why apple Maps looks so good!!! dude get life!!!