Google Search for iOS threatens the incumbent Siri

Google Search for iOS threatens the incumbent Siri

Summary: One of Scott Forstall's biggest blunders was overhyping Siri prematurely. Sensing an opportunity, Google today enhanced its Search app by adding Siri-like features and compatibility with older devices.

TOPICS: Apple, Apps, Google, iOS, iPhone
Google Search for iOS a threat to the incumbent Siri - Jason O'Grady

It's no secret that Siri didn't get off to a great start. Calling early reviews "mixed" would be polite. When it launched with the iPhone 4S in October 2011 Apple described Siri in its typical, magical terms:

Siri not only understands what you say, it knows what you mean. It figures out the right apps to use to find the right answer. Then, just like a personal assistant, it answers you.

When Siri launched, Apple Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall gave the demo (video). It's largely believed the Forstall was fired from Apple because of Siri and the iOS 6 Maps debacle

Regardless of what you think of Siri, Google clearly senses an opportunity. Today, it released a significant update to the Google Search app (free, iTunes) that competes head-to-head with Siri.

Google Search 2.5 includes improved voice recognition, on-the-fly text streaming, and answers to questions in a spoken voice, just like Siri.

Sample queries include:

  • What’s the weather like tomorrow morning?
  • Where’s the nearest gas station?
  • What’s a good place for sushi?
  • When does United Airlines flight 900 depart?

Sound familiar?

Here's the demo video:

Two things surprise me about Google Search 2.5 for iOS:

  1. That Google released it for iOS, which is a direct threat to its Android business; and
  2. That Apple approved it for release on the App Store, when it could have manufactured a reason to deny it.

Make no mistake about it, Google Search's new voice search capabilities are a direct threat to Apple and iOS. In fact, if Google added a preference for "voice search on launch" to its new search app (like Soundhound does with instant music recognition), it could be a full replacement for Siri.

Google search vs. Apple search is just begging for comparison to Google Maps vs. Apple maps but that's a topic for another post.

My problem with Siri is planned obsolescence. Apple artificially restricts Siri to the iPhone 4S (or higher) just to sell hardware. But guess what? Google Search 2.5 works flawlessly on the iPhone 4, while Siri doesn't work at all.

Apple thinks that it's protecting the bottom line by restricting Siri to the iPhone 4S+ but it's actually burning good will from loyal customers and pushing them to a Google product.

What's your take on the new Google Search app?

Topics: Apple, Apps, Google, iOS, iPhone

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  • amazing :)

    i just tried it on my iphone 4, and it works flawlessly. quick, accurate, easy to use.
    • Google Search is half of the experience

      And IOs users find it amazing.

      Android users have Google Now for a long while now (Google voice search has been around for years on Android!).

      This clearly shows that Android experience and innovation is superior to IOs. Then again, I fans will defend IOs ecosystem. The fact is, IOs loyalty is falling of a cliff. Its just a matter of time before most realize how far behind IOs is compared to Android.
      • Keep up that Pipe Dream of Yours

        Android is and has always be filled with awesome but frustrating to use ideas; until Crapple came up a user friendly copy. Voice dictation is no exception.

        The official iPhone does lag years behind in basic features that have been available in dumb phones and advanced features that are available in Android, but all that is fixed in 5-10 minutes with a Jailbreak, without adding the open-to-trouble (that's what it's been up until Google finally took the red pill in early October 2012) and self-fragmenting (not sure if this has been fixed with Microsoft's new file system they copied) features of Android.
  • Consumers will choose which service is best.

    Having both options available will only improve each service due to, dare I say it, classic Darwinism forces.

    While both search options are available on Apple devices, one can't help but be overjoyed. Let the good times roll.
    • lies!

      Do not talk about evolution or Darwin with marketing BS! In nature, it isn't best who survives but the one what can adapt.

      In markets, it isn't best what wins and competition isn't good for anyone, in contrary, competition causes nearly all troubles what there are. Like less choices, more compatibility problems, less workers, bad quality, waste of raw materials, smaller payment for workers, abandoned products and services and more time and money to be wasted by customers and companies itself.
  • Although I suppose Siri has more integration

    Although I suppose Siri benefits from native integration into the OS and apps, so no matter how good the third party app is, it will always be lacking.

    Although the voice recognition with Google's search app seems to be surprisingly good - usually I have frustration with voice recognition, but it's accurately picked up what I've said more times than I thought it would.

    Try asking "how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"

    A voices gives back to you the answer I always give ;). And surprisingly I was able to ask it that tongue twister and it picked it up accurately.

    Although some of the accuracy does seem to derive itself from detection of common phrases and such - the final result often seemed to differ from the real time view it gives. So it might not be best for dictation of things like articles (if that's even possible?), although it should work well for common search phrases.
    • did manage to trip it up though . . .

      Did manage to trip it up, though . . .

      Kept asking it "find the nearest ESSO station" (ESSO is common in this country, and the only station that takes a certain card used by military members), and it could not for the life of it pick it up. The search results sometimes came back with ESSO finders, but the actual phrase it tried to type in never matched what I said.

      Even tried spelling out the word, and it didn't really pick up that I was trying to spell.

      So - not perfect. Can certainly be tripped up. Like most chat bots, there's no actual attempt at AI going on, just a fancy type of search engine with hopefully a large enough corpus to make it sound intelligent.
    • exactly

      exactly! with iOS you have no choice, youre always limited even with very simple tasks like open an email link in Chrome....very very sad
  • no fly

    Still doesn't speak my language. Useless.
  • good but limited

    I asked Google search "When is the next 49ers game?" Google brought me to link to the 49er schedule, which I had to click to search.
    I asked Siri "When is the next 49ers game?" She replied "The 49ers-Rams game is November 11, 2012 at 1:25PM
  • Google advantage

    Voice recognition is clearly close to Google's core search competence. Basically, it is just another form of query, with voice input. Sense-making of spoken words, with all the context it requires, is a matter of sophisticated interpretation algorithms, things Google is good at. I was surprised Apple, with Siri, beat Google at delivering a broad scope, voice tool.
    And as with Google Maps, the good thing is that it raises competition and will force each company to constantly improve their products.
  • It's mainly an interface to Google search App, no more

    It's words recognition rate is not better than Siri, and it almost always redirect to the same exact page you would have if you directly typed the question on Google search app. I don't see the interest in having the google result page with the top result when I said "what's the latest movies". Especially if I'm not currently in the United States.

    • Maybe if Apple...

      Maybe if Apple would loosen it's restrictions on iOS, it'd be as capable as Google Now.
  • fair

    "Google Search app (free, iTunes) that competes head-to-head with Siri."

    No apple fan here but to be honest I can't grasp the fact you just compared Search App with Assistant App... Sure both apps do great on searching things but good luck with texting someone or reading something back to you via Google Search...

    There are far better apps on iTunes that compete head to head with Siri and do far more than just "basic search" ... check Viingo or Assistant... etc...

    Anyway, this is taking to much time ... but I had to give you my two cents
  • Impressive!

    I use both iOS & Android devices @ work for an IT Enterprise. Love my iPhone, but Google's new voice search is quite impressive. I'll be testing for the next few days, but I like it already!
  • So the Faithful Android using ICS or below don't have this yet?

    So the Faithful Android users using ICS or below don't have this yet? However, if I get a free iPhone 4, I get these features? Hmmm.