Smart speaker assistants compared: Siri vs. Alexa vs. Google Assistant

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2018
Apple's HomePod brings Siri into the home for the first time, but how does the virtual assistant stack up against established technologies like Amazon's Alexa and Google Home's Google Assistant? We put the latest versions of each smart speaker to the test in this video comparison.





Although the HomePod is loaded with hardware and technology that make for some pretty incredible audio quality, the virtual assistant side of the speaker has been criticized for lacking the smarts of its competitors.

To see how far behind Siri trails, we came up with a set of questions to ask HomePod, a second-generation Echo and a Google Home unit, from playing music to creating appointments and placing phone calls.

A sampling of the queries and commands is listed below:

Music:
  • Play some chill dubstep music.
  • Play some music by the scorpions.
  • Add this song to my rock playlist.
  • Make a new playlist with this song
  • Set volume to 25 percent
  • Skip ahead 1 minute
  • I like this song
  • I hate this song
Calendar and time:
  • I have a dentist appointment tomorrow at 8am
  • Set a reminder to go to the store at 5 o clock
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes
  • How much time is left on the timer?
  • Set another timer for 1 hour.
  • How much time is left on my timers?
  • Cancel all of my timers
  • Add an event to me calendar
Location:
  • How's the traffic to fred meyers?
  • Give me directions to fred meyers.
  • How's the weather?
  • Will it rain this weekend?
Shopping:
  • What are the hours for Fred Meyers?
  • Add eggs to my shopping list
  • What's on my shopping list
Miscellaneous:
  • Give me the news
  • Give me fox news
  • Play sports radio
  • Find my phone
  • Remember the number 5621
  • What's the number I told you to remember?



In our testing, HomePod and Siri was the least capable duo out of the three smart speakers. Aside from known limitations such as Calendar access and phone call initiation (users can switch the output of a call to HomePod from an iPhone), Siri failed to correctly determine simple commands that Echo and Home were able to understand. We also discovered new HomePod restrictions, like the ability to set only one timer at a time.

As expected from a largely closed system, Siri was unable to place orders online, a major benefit for both Echo and Home. HomePod suggested nearby stores after receiving a request to "buy candy," but was unable to facilitate an actual order.

Siri also lacks the ability to check flight times.

Another oddity we came across during testing was word recognition. Each virtual assistant uses proprietary technology to parse human speech, and while Siri did a fine job of detecting our commands, it seemed to lack the understanding of its competitors. In one example, neither Siri nor Alexa were able to properly understand "play the AppleInsider Podcast," though Google Assistant parsed the language correctly and began playback of our most recent episode.

There were some bright spots, with HomePod able to find movie times, provide hours and directions to nearby stores and update notes. However, Alexa and Google Assistant are also capable of delivering these same functions, and at a fraction of the price of HomePod.

If you're considering getting a HomePod, but are worried about how bad Siri is in its current state, remember that Apple will undoubtedly build out functionality throughout the product's lifecycle. How fast those features will arrive is anyone's guess, but the company is constantly making progress with Siri, and those benefits will trickle down to HomePod in due course.

Alternatively, if you have the money and are big on the voice assistant future, you can setup all three voice assistants at the same time.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    How much has Siri improved on the iPhone? Will we see a greater improvement on the HomePod?

    I personally don't see big improvements in Siri over the years, but I know the limitations and live within them. I'm doing the same with my HomePod. 

    I hope things do improve. 
    magman1979racerhomie3pakitt
  • Reply 2 of 33
    Lab4UsLab4Us Posts: 30member
    Lol, in other news, let’s test products for tasks they aren’t designed to do, then ding them for it...the Apple hate force is strong in this article...

    I have an idea! Why not buy Echo and Google Home if you want all that millenial bullshit running your life.  Those of us who appreciate the MUSIC (you know, the Homepod main selling point) will continue to enjoy our Homepods and the technology within...
    mwhitemagman1979fruitstandninjaracerhomie3smiffy312old4funjony0lolliver
  • Reply 3 of 33
    magman1979magman1979 Posts: 1,122member
    Lab4Us said:
    Lol, in other news, let’s test products for tasks they aren’t designed to do, then ding them for it...the Apple hate force is strong in this article...

    I have an idea! Why not buy Echo and Google Home if you want all that millenial bullshit running your life.  Those of us who appreciate the MUSIC (you know, the Homepod main selling point) will continue to enjoy our Homepods and the technology within...
    Couldn't have said it better myself! Though I don't own a HomePod (yet), my sole purpose for getting it would be for it to integrate with my Apple Music and do what it does best, which is entertain my soul with music.

    If I need to shop, put together shopping lists, or other tasks, I will do it on, as the saying goes, the right tool for the right job, and smart speakers aren't it!
    fruitstandninjaLab4Uslolliver
  • Reply 4 of 33
    jsmythe00 said:
    How about apple wait before realizing a half baked product... And lasts at that
    How about the reviewers realize that the HomePod is about music and not ordering more tide pods. I have two HomePods at home and I can’t say enough about the quality of the sound and he ability to understand me anywhere in the house even at a whisper. They also perfectly control my Hue lights and other HomeKit accessories. Can Siri be better? Yes but Siri also doesn’t listen to and record conversations that don’t pertain to it. Unlike Alexa and Google Home Siri listens for one thing and that is “Hey Siri.” 
    magman1979pakittlolliver
  • Reply 5 of 33
    Lab4UsLab4Us Posts: 30member
    Lab4Us said:
    Lol, in other news, let’s test products for tasks they aren’t designed to do, then ding them for it...the Apple hate force is strong in this article...

    I have an idea! Why not buy Echo and Google Home if you want all that millenial bullshit running your life.  Those of us who appreciate the MUSIC (you know, the Homepod main selling point) will continue to enjoy our Homepods and the technology within...
    Couldn't have said it better myself! Though I don't own a HomePod (yet), my sole purpose for getting it would be for it to integrate with my Apple Music and do what it does best, which is entertain my soul with music.

    If I need to shop, put together shopping lists, or other tasks, I will do it on, as the saying goes, the right tool for the right job, and smart speakers aren't it!
    Believe the positive reviews on the sound of the Homepod!  Not equivalent to a $5k system, BUT a superb listening experience.  I’ve had mine since day 1 of deliveries and don’t think I will ever tire of picking from 40 + something million songs and enjoying hearing them in a whole new way.  For reference, I’ve been listening to music since before cassette tapes (so 8-tracks and earlier), and the Homepod has allowed me to hear new things 9n songs I’ve been listening to since the 60s!
    magman1979pakittlolliver
  • Reply 6 of 33
    roxsocksroxsocks Posts: 12member
    Great article. Yea, Siri is dumb, that’s a given at this point. One thing that stands out for me is that my home is now continually filled with music. Despite having big quality speakers in my living room and TV room, it’s my HomePod in the kitchen that’s constantly on. It’s so convenient to just say Hey Siri, and my music starts. It’s not hard to take out my phone, press play, tap airplay, select my Bose system, and walk over and turn it on. It’s just that Siri makes it so much easier while my hands are full of bags and keys and coats when i get home from work. At the moment, it does the two biggest things well, and all else is icing on the cake (one timer is f’n bull* tho).
  • Reply 7 of 33
    mejsricmejsric Posts: 133member
    At first you will ask Siri at lot but in end the day, you will just leave that speaker and play music 90% and use your phone for assistant.
    magman1979
  • Reply 8 of 33
    racerhomie3racerhomie3 Posts: 1,059member
    Anyways , I will never get an ad company’s speaker inside my home.
    Only HomePod, when I get an upgraded speaker, or nothing.
  • Reply 9 of 33
    metrixmetrix Posts: 249member
    I think Apple is selling premium sound quality everyone else is selling an assistant where sound is not the priority. 
    pakitt2old4funlolliver
  • Reply 10 of 33
    rs1919rs1919 Posts: 13member
    Every article that talks about the HomePod brings up how it’s not able to accomplish a task like buying food online. I’ve tried ordering things with Alexa, and I found it to be a pain in the ass and is a much better easier experience to do on my phone or computer. ‘Siri also lacks that ability to check flights times” Right... because I always have the exact flight number in the top of my head and don’t need to look it up in an email where I’m already on the computer and can just click the link.... Ultimately, from my experience the places smart speakers are useful, convenient, and not cumbersome/clumsy to use are for HomeKit type task, setting timers, setting quick reminders, and playing music. Other things it;s generally quicker and easier to take the phone out of your pocket and use it. The HomePod is perfectly capable with all these tasks (“but.. but, only one timer”, really?) and the sound quality is amazing, which is where it really really shines and what a SPEAKER is generally used for.
    lolliver
  • Reply 11 of 33
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,875member
    "f you're considering getting a HomePod, but are worried about how bad Siri is in its current state, remember that Apple will undoubtedly build out functionality throughout the product's lifecycle."

    That's an assumption.  You can make a great case that Siri has been half-baked for at least five years.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 33
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 886member
    Although HomePod sounds fabulous, Siri continues to be a weak link.  Thankfully Apple already knows this, and future updates will surely level the playing field with Echo and Home.
  • Reply 13 of 33
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,075member
    Siri is great on my Apple Watch, but Apple really dumbed down Siri on the HomePod.
  • Reply 14 of 33
    I haven't had any major issues with Siri on HomePod. Works fine if you stick to the general guidelines for use that Apple provides. I've used it more often than Siri on my iPhone or my iMac so far, and I think that's actually one of the goals for Apple with this product. It's kind of an intro to the functionality for people that don't typically use it. 
    lolliver
  • Reply 15 of 33
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,448member
    jsmythe00 said:
    How about apple wait before realizing a half baked product... And lasts at that
    ... but Siri also doesn’t listen to and record conversations that don’t pertain to it. Unlike Alexa and Google Home Siri listens for one thing and that is “Hey Siri.” 
    Exactly the same as Google listens for "hey Google" and Echo listens for "ok Alexa". Every one of the three is technically "listening" to everything you say, and none of the three are sending ANY of it off-device to a company server until it hears the keyphrase that activates it. 
    edited March 2018 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 33
    While I was watching this video, Siri on my iPhone X responded to this guy’s “Hey, Siri”, saying “It was nice chatting with you”, surprisingly not in English, but in Japanese because I am Japanese.
  • Reply 17 of 33
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,909member
    I generally like my HomePod, but I agree Siri could be better. 

    I think it’s important to distinguish between two types of Siri limitations, though — limitations due to Apple’s strong commitment to privacy and limitations due to some technical limitation/failure. 

    I am perfectly happy to accept limitations due to a strong commitment to protecting my privacy/data. I would definitely prefer that Apple measure twice and cut once when it comes to privacy and security. 

    Limitations due to some technical weakness, though, are more worthy of criticism. 

    So, things like calendar and phone limitations due to protecting people’s accounts are fine. An inability to set more than one timer, though, seems lame. 
  • Reply 18 of 33
    pakittpakitt Posts: 154member
    The selling point of the Home Pod is music (more specifically, Apple Music).

    To allow usage without touching the device, they use Siri.
    Google and Amazon made instead devices to sell things, and maybe play music.

    That Siri is practically useless (to me) and that needs scripted phrases to get things done, things I can do faster by using my hands, is a fact, but not a decision point to get or not an Home Pod.
    And when Siri, if ever, will be upgraded to a level that truly is "AI", likely the Home Pod 3 with the A15 will be there (at 300$ more) to talk to a real live assistant, and not a robot giving you cricket results and a weather forecast.
  • Reply 19 of 33
    dv8ordv8or Posts: 24member
    The one thing reviewers are not talking about is security and anonymity - at least Apple aren't scraping info of us to the same degree as Google or Amazon. I am not sure I want company's that have a vested interest in knowing what I do in charge of a device that has microphones in my house?
  • Reply 20 of 33
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,715member
    Lab4Us said:
    Lol, in other news, let’s test products for tasks they aren’t designed to do, then ding them for it...the Apple hate force is strong in this article...

    I have an idea! Why not buy Echo and Google Home if you want all that millenial bullshit running your life.  Those of us who appreciate the MUSIC (you know, the Homepod main selling point) will continue to enjoy our Homepods and the technology within...
    Then Apple shouldn't have released the HomePod with SIRI in it.   They should have just released a totally dumb speaker with a 3.5 mm aux input port.

    I've heard that the HomePod will answer and fail on questions that your phone can answer when you have your phone in hand or .    Why the dumber version of Siri?
    I see no reason to buy a product that will annoy me when I try to use it as intended.   Apple has a long way to go with Siri.    Right now I'm (surprisingly) happy with my two SONOS Ones.
    muthuk_vanalingammaltz
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