Google Assistant arrives on the iPad, but still isn't going to replace Siri soon

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 13
After a year stuck just on Android devices, and then another year on the iPhone, Siri competitor Google Assistant has come over to the iPad -- AppleInsider fires it up, to see how it fares on its own, and compared to Apple's offering.




Editor's note: We first examined Google Assistant when it launched in 2017. With the release of the iPad version, we've reinstalled the assistant, and given it another go.

Announced during Google's I/O keynote in May 2017, Google Assistant promises to bring the full force of Google services to bear -- and it's now been updated for the iPad. It remains relatively light-weight, running on anything that iOS 10 can run -- meaning nearly everything Apple produced for iOS gear in the last four years.

Initial installation

As with everything else downloaded from the App Store, the app downloaded and installed fine on a fifth generation iPad, a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, an iPhone X, an iPhone 7 Plus, and the iPhone SE. We successfully logged in with our Google account -- and that's when the craziness started.

The app asked to alter our permissions on our Google account, but failed to do so when we approved the request. We ultimately had to log in on a browser, and manually change the settings.




After force-quitting the app and restarting, it acknowledged the account changes, and we got to work -- in portrait mode only, for both.

Mish-mash of permissions

Google account permissions aren't the only ones that the app needs, though. The first time you ask the device to do something for you that relies on your data stored on your device, it asks for permission. In some cases, you'll have granted the same permission for both your Google account, and your phone as well.

This isn't a bad thing -- but we found that from time to time we'd have to re-authorize the Assistant's use of stored iPhone data or features. We're not sure why at this point, but the re-authorization happened on all of the test devices.

Voice recognition

The main tester originally heralds from western Massachusetts, far west of the "Cliff Claven" line. The farther away you get from Boston, residents speak more like we're from Connecticut or upstate New York, rather than the "Cheers" mailman. We have a few linguistic oddities but they're mostly in what we call things, rather than pronunciation.

Whether or not that's unaccented, is for the reader to decide. Listen to the recent episodes of the AppleInsider podcast to make an educated guess, if you're so inclined.

Regardless, in our testing, Google Assistant did far better with speech recognition and parsing what's been said than Siri. Google Assistant fares better with homonyms than the current Siri incarnation does, and Google's product also does far better with acronyms than Apple's implementation.

So far, we've done limited testing with speakers originally from France, the deep U.S. south, and the Philippines with the same results -- Siri chokes on acronyms and homonyms more than Google Assistant does.

Recognizing words is only part of the battle. Another front in that fight is what you do with the words. Neither are perfect.







Siri blew the interpretation completely, but even though Google Assistant got the words right, it didn't answer the question properly either.

Follow-up queries to earlier requests are a weird grab bag of what you can or cannot expect a correct response from. Asking who the current U.S. President is will give the right answer, with the follow-up "How tall is he?" bringing up the height on its own.

The query "Who is the CEO of Apple" summons the brief but correct response of Tim Cook. Subsequently asking "When did he become CEO," Google Assistant starts reading from Cook's Wikipedia listing, providing the correct result as well as a link to the page itself.

Sometimes the responses are unexpectedly odd. Asking "How tall is an adult giraffe" provides two answers, but while the male giraffe height is given as a range, the female giraffe's answer is given as a single height: 4.6 meters.

Asking "how long is a Los Angeles class fast-attack submarine" won't provide a range, but instead will list off some of the vessels, complete with photographs. Asking for the length of a specific submarine provides the measurement.

Even though touted as a feature, Google's conversational-style queries don't fare as well as it could, even if it's properly identified the question at hand.

Practical use, and limitations

Ultimately, whether or not you use Google's Assistant on iOS boils down to three things -- how deeply you're already embedded in the Google ecosystem, who you want handling your data including some personal information, and if you can tolerate the Apple-induced limitations that the app has.

Google Assistant leans heavily on your existing Google profile, and all the data its collected on you associated with that account. If you've been avoiding Google so far, Google Assistant isn't a good reason to jump in now.

As with Siri on iOS and macOS, Apple still isn't interested in collating data for sale. The Siri configuration menu has a button that invokes a summary of what Siri collects, what it sends to Apple, and how it is used -- there is no such nicety for Google Assistant.

Other specifics like song names, names of photo albums, photo album names, and similar user data points are collated by Siri, but not linked to other data that Apple may have as a result of use of other Apple services. As we mentioned, Google Assistant passes requests for a song selection to Apple Music, it's not clear what Google does with this data.

This probably isn't going to change any time soon. So, at least for now, Siri has an edge over Google Assistant for iOS users.

But, both still have a long way to go.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 42
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    I'd say Apple allow this as a Siri replacement with one catch, before you install this a warning pops up telling you EXACTLY what Google does with your data.

    "WARNING: Google collects your personal data to sell to advertisers."

    This will raise awareness while giving goog an offer they can't refuse.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 42
    irelandireland Posts: 17,391member
    No mention in your piece that it's US-only. You know, how most of Apple's users are outside the US.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 42
    BluntBlunt Posts: 203member
    Another piece of Google spyware shit.
    bb-15caliwatto_cobraMacPro
  • Reply 4 of 42
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,232administrator
    ireland said:
    No mention in your piece that it's US-only. You know, how most of Apple's users are outside the US.
    We covered that in yesterday's news announcement about it.
  • Reply 5 of 42
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,125member
    Google  Ass will never be a Siri replacement.    

    They have their own platform to do that with. 
    caliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 42
    waltgwaltg Posts: 74member
    While I like my Apple products, Siri is THE WORST thing about them! 90% of the time I call her a dumb b***** because never a correct answer not even close unless it is a SIMPLE thing like a reminder or a measurement conversion, I can ask the same questions that Siri can't get to the google app and EVERYTIME I get a correct answer!! Plenty of fan kiddos on here badmouthing the google assistant but I've always found it much better than Siri, and that goes for the map application too.
    daniPhonemuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 42
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,061member
    After a year stuck just on Android devices, Siri competitor Google Assistant has come over to the iPhone -- AppleInsider fires it up, to see how it fares on its own, and compared to Apple's offering.


    Siri blew the interpretation completely, but even though Google Assistant got the words right, it didn't answer the question properly either. Even though touted as a feature, Google's conversational-style queries don't fare that well, even if it's properly identified the question at hand.

    Even when shifting to a technology term, in this case, "USB-C," the results were effectively the same.




    The problem with both is that sometimes rewording a query gets different results. Try asking "Show me pictures of USB-C connectors" instead. Pictures!
  • Reply 8 of 42
    The "show me pictures of USB-C connectors actually do work in Dutch Siri. 

    God, this is a badly written app.. what a pain to sign up. It's not possible to upload pictures. Even though it gives the option. It's also a pain to just write a comment. This isn't a native app AND IT SHOWS. Bad work..
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 9 of 42
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,061member
    daniPhone said:
    The "show me pictures of USB-C connectors actually do work in Dutch Siri. 

    God, this is a badly written app.. what a pain to sign up. It's not possible to upload pictures. Even though it gives the option. It's also a pain to just write a comment. This isn't a native app AND IT SHOWS. Bad work..
    Apple won't allow it to be a native app. It's not so much badly designed as it is purposefully handicapped by Apple. The author is correct that for that reason alone 3rd party apps that might compete with Apple's own are most often at a disadvantage. 
    muthuk_vanalingamsingularity
  • Reply 10 of 42
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 151member
    gatorguy said:
    Apple won't allow it to be a native app. It's not so much badly designed as it is purposefully handicapped by Apple. The author is correct that for that reason alone 3rd party apps that might compete with Apple's own are most often at a disadvantage. 
    It is a "native" app, though most of the functionality lies within Google's servers . More accurate to say that Apple won't it (or other apps) to replace Apple-branded apps and functionality (e.g. Siri, Mail, etc.).
    cali
  • Reply 11 of 42
    BluntBlunt Posts: 203member
    gatorguy said:
    daniPhone said:
    The "show me pictures of USB-C connectors actually do work in Dutch Siri. 

    God, this is a badly written app.. what a pain to sign up. It's not possible to upload pictures. Even though it gives the option. It's also a pain to just write a comment. This isn't a native app AND IT SHOWS. Bad work..
    Apple won't allow it to be a native app. It's not so much badly designed as it is purposefully handicapped by Apple. The author is correct that for that reason alone 3rd party apps that might compete with Apple's own are most often at a disadvantage. 

    What a pain to sign up: Because of Apple
    It's not possible to upload pictures although it gives you the option: Because of Apple
    It's a pain to write a comment: Because of Apple
    Please don't blame Google!
    Rayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 42
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,061member
    Blunt said:
    gatorguy said:
    daniPhone said:
    The "show me pictures of USB-C connectors actually do work in Dutch Siri. 

    God, this is a badly written app.. what a pain to sign up. It's not possible to upload pictures. Even though it gives the option. It's also a pain to just write a comment. This isn't a native app AND IT SHOWS. Bad work..
    Apple won't allow it to be a native app. It's not so much badly designed as it is purposefully handicapped by Apple. The author is correct that for that reason alone 3rd party apps that might compete with Apple's own are most often at a disadvantage. 

    What a pain to sign up: Because of Apple
    It's not possible to upload pictures although it gives you the option: Because of Apple
    It's a pain to write a comment: Because of Apple
    Please don't blame Google!
    I'm not. ;)
    irelandmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 42
    BluntBlunt Posts: 203member

    waltg said:
    While I like my Apple products, Siri is THE WORST thing about them! 90% of the time I call her a dumb b***** because never a correct answer not even close unless it is a SIMPLE thing like a reminder or a measurement conversion, I can ask the same questions that Siri can't get to the google app and EVERYTIME I get a correct answer!! Plenty of fan kiddos on here badmouthing the google assistant but I've always found it much better than Siri, and that goes for the map application too.

    I think that Siri is very handy. We were walking in a city we never went before. My kid asks take us to the nearest ‘Sting Store’ we were given directions immediately. Driving in the car ask Siri where is the supermarket and of we went. Asking things about the weather, etc. etc.

    Same with Apple Maps it's getting lots of bad press but over here it works flawless and i prefer it over Google Maps.
    caliStrangeDayswatto_cobracrosslad
  • Reply 14 of 42
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,178member
    cali said:
    I'd say Apple allow this as a Siri replacement with one catch, before you install this a warning pops up telling you EXACTLY what Google does with your data.

    "WARNING: Google collects your personal data to sell to advertisers."

    This will raise awareness while giving goog an offer they can't refuse.
    So collecting data doesn't improve services at all? It's just to sell to advertisers? And is Google selling my specific personal data to 3rd parties or is it anonymized data that can't be traced back to an individual user?
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 42
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,178member

    gatorguy said:
    daniPhone said:
    The "show me pictures of USB-C connectors actually do work in Dutch Siri. 

    God, this is a badly written app.. what a pain to sign up. It's not possible to upload pictures. Even though it gives the option. It's also a pain to just write a comment. This isn't a native app AND IT SHOWS. Bad work..
    Apple won't allow it to be a native app. It's not so much badly designed as it is purposefully handicapped by Apple. The author is correct that for that reason alone 3rd party apps that might compete with Apple's own are most often at a disadvantage. 
    Like Apple not offering Siri hooks for 3rd party music apps. Of course I totally get why. If Spotify had access to Siri there would be less of a reason for someone to sign up with Apple Music. 
  • Reply 16 of 42
    bb-15bb-15 Posts: 207member
    waltg said:
    While I like my Apple products, Siri is THE WORST thing about them! 90% of the time I call her a dumb b***** because never a correct answer not even close unless it is a SIMPLE thing like a reminder or a measurement conversion, I can ask the same questions that Siri can't get to the google app and EVERYTIME I get a correct answer!! Plenty of fan kiddos on here badmouthing the google assistant but I've always found it much better than Siri, and that goes for the map application too.
    Siri is very helpful to me especially when I am driving using Bluetooth hands free. 
    1. Calling people on my contacts and major businesses. 
    2. Getting directions to major businesses and addresses. 
    3. Siri reading new text messages and allowing me to dictate and send a new text message (again hands free with my eyes on the road using Bluetooth). 

    * Best of all with Siri, I am not using a Google product which is collecting my data (email, texts, location) under my name/unique identifier to have advertisers send more junk ads in my direction.


    edited May 2017 watto_cobracrosslad
  • Reply 17 of 42
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    waltg said:
    While I like my Apple products, Siri is THE WORST thing about them! 90% of the time I call her a dumb b***** because never a correct answer not even close unless it is a SIMPLE thing like a reminder or a measurement conversion, I can ask the same questions that Siri can't get to the google app and EVERYTIME I get a correct answer!! Plenty of fan kiddos on here badmouthing the google assistant but I've always found it much better than Siri, and that goes for the map application too.
    Facts are "badmouthing"? Google is a spyware company walking the line between legal and illegal, sometimes falling on the illegal side.

    cali said:
    I'd say Apple allow this as a Siri replacement with one catch, before you install this a warning pops up telling you EXACTLY what Google does with your data.

    "WARNING: Google collects your personal data to sell to advertisers."

    This will raise awareness while giving goog an offer they can't refuse.
    So collecting data doesn't improve services at all? It's just to sell to advertisers? And is Google selling my specific personal data to 3rd parties or is it anonymized data that can't be traced back to an individual user?

    YES. Google makes over %80 of its profits selling your data to advertisers. Don't kid yourself, goog isn't a charity nor do they have morals.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 42
    irelandireland Posts: 17,391member
    ireland said:
    No mention in your piece that it's US-only. You know, how most of Apple's users are outside the US.
    We covered that in yesterday's news announcement about it.
    Fair enough but given the article title.
  • Reply 19 of 42
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 5,408member
    ireland said:
    No mention in your piece that it's US-only. You know, how most of Apple's users are outside the US.
    We covered that in yesterday's news announcement about it.
    As a reader i'm not sure you can assume we see every story your write. I didn't read that one, so the info would be useful in this story too. 
    watto_cobramuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 42
    cali said:
    I'd say Apple allow this as a Siri replacement with one catch, before you install this a warning pops up telling you EXACTLY what Google does with your data.

    "WARNING: Google collects your personal data to sell to advertisers."

    This will raise awareness while giving goog an offer they can't refuse.
    So collecting data doesn't improve services at all? It's just to sell to advertisers? And is Google selling my specific personal data to 3rd parties or is it anonymized data that can't be traced back to an individual user?
    You have to assume that Google sells everything it knows about you to anyone willing to pay for it.
    If this needs a google account to be of any use then there is your feed to the Google AI.
    Like Facebook, whenever you sign into Google, the Ad slinging part of Google will get your complete history including things like browsing history, CC purchases, where you have been and used Google Maps etc etc.
    If you are comfortable with spy on you 24/7/52 then go ahead and use it.
    I've stopped using google entierly for this very reason. Perhaps you should think about your use of Google as well?

    watto_cobra
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