OK Google, who's got the smartest speaker of them all?

Google Assistant still rules the roost, but Apple's Siri is catching up quickly, according to a comparison of smart speakers.

Are smart speakers really that smart? Let's ask them

If you want a smart speaker that understands your questions and actually gives the right answer, top of the pile right now might be Google Home, according to a comparison of the devices by Loup Ventures. 

The company compared the performance of Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana on a set of 800 questions each. All of them almost perfectly understood the queries, but Google came out ahead on answers by delivering the correct answer to 88 percent of questions.

Siri, perhaps surprisingly, came in second and answered 75 percent of questions correctly, followed by Alexa, which scored 72.5 percent, and Cortana, trailing at 63 percent, according to Loup Ventures

Siri wasn't included in Loup Ventures' 2017 smart speaker face off as Apple's HomePod wasn't yet released. But compared to Loup Ventures test of Siri and the HomePod this February, the Apple assistant has improved massively. Back then Siri only answered 52 percent of the firm's queries correctly. 

Loup's questions are broken down into five categories, including local, commerce, navigation, information, and command. HomePod's overall score in February was dragged down by navigation questions, returning correct answers to only 12 percent of questions. However, it performed well on questions about local queries, such as 'Where can I find a good coffee around here?'. 

Google Home led in all categories except for the command category, which contained questions like "remind me to call Steve at 2pm today". Apple's HomePod correctly followed 85 percent of command queries, while Google scored 73 percent. 

SEE: How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (cover story PDF)

Loup Ventures Gene Munster and Will Thompson speculate that HomePod's better performance on commands could be due to HomePod passing on more data about requests to the iOS device paired to the speaker. Command questions also contained lots of music-related questions, which could favour the HomePod. 

The company recently ran a survey with 520 people to see what they use their smart speaker for. The three top categories by far were music, general questions, and weather. More people were using the speakers to control other home smart things and to buy goods compared to previous surveys, but it's still an emerging use case.    

Interestingly, Google Home outperformed Amazons's Echo in the commerce category by correctly answering more questions about product information and where to buy goods. 

Apple's investments in building its own mapping data over the past year appear to be paying off, too. Apple HomePod and Google Home stood "head and shoulders above the others" in the local and navigation categories thanks to their respective map data.   


Apple's Siri is catching up to Google Assistant. 

Loup Ventures