There’s a lot of factors to consider when selecting a voice-assistant platform but what if your biggest consideration is just how they answer your question? We asked Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri a bunch of questions and documented the results.
Now, let’s be clear, we’re not here for a technical breakdown of the minute details of every platform and the devices they come on. We’re here to get to the bottom of important matters like which assistant gives the best weather reports and tells the best stories.
With that in mind, let’s get to the group interviews!
It seems like the weather comes up in every conversation, even when that conversation is with Alexa. Here are some common weather-related questions and the voice-assistant responses.
What will the weather be like tomorrow?
Alexa: “Here’s the forecast tomorrow for [city]: Look for intermittent clouds with a high of 85 degrees and a low of 69 degrees.”
Google Assistant: “Tomorrow in [city], it’ll be partly cloudy with a high of 85 and a low of 69.”
Siri: “Ok, here’s the weather for tomorrow:” *Shows card displaying tomorrow’s forecast, with the high, low, chance of rain, and cloud cover, as well as a 10-day forecast.*
Will it rain today?
Alexa: “No rain is expected today.”
Google Assistant: “No, today is not forecast to rain in [city].”
Siri: “It doesn’t look like it’s going to rain.” *Shows card with hourly forecast.*
What will the temperature be at 5 pm?
Alexa: “At 5 pm, it’ll be 83 degrees.”
Google Assistant: “Today at 5 pm in [city], expect a temperature of 84.”
Siri: “It’ll be hot outside this afternoon… about 84 degrees.” *Shows card with hourly forecast*
What’s the weather for this weekend?
Alexa: “In [city], it’ll be a cloudy weekend with a high of 86 degrees and a low of 67 degrees.”
Google Assistant: “Today through Sunday in [city], highs will be in the mid 80s, while lows will be around 68. Today and tomorrow, it’ll be partly cloudy. Sunday, there’ll be scattered thunderstorms.”
Siri: “Ok, here’s the weather for this weekend.” *Shows card for 10-day forecast.*
We say, if you’re looking for thrilling interactions you’re looking in the wrong place, but hey—we’re talking about the weather here. If you want weather with a side of sass, you better grab a copy of Carrot Weather and turn up the snark setting.
Did you end up missing the big game? Or fall asleep before the end of that Cubs-Reds game? Luckily, voice assistants can handle all your burning questions about last night’s scores and upcoming games.
When do the Yankees play next?
Alexa: “The Yankees will play tonight at 7:05 pm at home against the Tigers.”
Google Assistant: “The Yankees will be playing the Tigers today at 7:05 pm.”
Siri: “The Yankees meet the Tigers at 7:05 pm.” *Shows card with more info.*
How many games behind are the Dodgers?
Alexa: “The Dodgers are currently two games back from the Diamondbacks in the NL West, and 2.5 games back in the wild card race.”
Google Assistant: “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help, but I’m learning more every day.”
Siri: “It looks like the Dodgers are two games behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West.” *Shows card with more info.*
When does the NFL season start?
Alexa: “The first game of the NFL regular season will be between the Eagles and Falcons next Thursday night at 8:20 pm.”
Google Assistant: “On Thursday, the Falcons will play the Eagles at 8:20 pm. On September 9th, the Bengals will play the Colts at 1pm. The Bills will play the Ravens at 1pm. For other games, try asking about a specific team.”
Siri: “The NFL regular season goes from Thursday through December 30, 2018.”
What was the score of the 49ers game?
Alexa: “Last night the 49ers lost to the Chargers 23-21. They’ll play on September 9th at 1pm against the Vikings.”
Google Assistant: “The 49ers lost 23-21 yesterday against the Chargers.”
Siri: The 49ers just barely lost to the Chargers yesterday. The final score was 23-21.” *Shows card with score breakdown by quarter.*
As far as sports go, it’s close, but clearly, the natural language understanding and delivery edge here goes to the Alexa.
Maps & Travel
While you might be in the car away from a voice assistant for your travel-related questions, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri are still pretty helpful when it comes to figuring out driving distances or getting information on places nearby—and while it’s a little extra work to bring Alexa with you, you can use all three in the car. None the less, we stuck to asking the questions at home to keep the interview environment consistent for the candidates.
How far of a drive is it from Los Angeles to New York City?
Alexa: “Sorry, I couldn’t find what you’re looking for.”
Google Assistant: “It is 2,797 miles to get from New York to Los Angeles by car.”
Siri: “New York is about 2,794 miles from Los Angeles by car.”
Where’s the nearest Starbucks?
Alexa: “I found a Starbucks. It’s 1.3 miles away on [road] in [city]. It’s open now until 10pm.”
Google Assistant: “The address for Starbucks is [address].”
Siri: *Shows card of the nearest Starbucks with a map and additional info like hours, address, phone number, and a shortcut for directions.*
Where can I get my car fixed?
Alexa: “Here are a few top-rated ones.” *Lists off four car wash places.*
Google Assistant: “I found a few places within 2.9 miles.” *Lists off three car repair shops*
Siri: “Ok, check it out:” *Shows a mixed list of repair shops, dealerships, and speciality auto shops (tires, body repair, etc.).*
Alexa might have picked up some points on the sports info delivery, but hit a rough patch here. Google Assistant delivered the most practical speaker-based info. Siri, a pattern we’re seeing here, relies heavily on visual cards.
I love talking about interesting facts and other bits of trivia with friends, but sometimes an argument comes up on a piece of trivia that we disagree on. This is where your voice assistant of choice can enter the ring and settle the fight for you once and for all.
Who won the 1989 World Series?
Alexa: “Oakland Athletics won the World Series in 1989.”
Google Assistant: “The 1989 World Series was won by the Oakland Athletics.”
Siri: “The Athletics swept the Giants in the World Series 4-0. They won the last game 9 to 6 on October 28, 1989.” *Shows card with more info about the series.*
How many movies has Tom Hanks been in?
Alexa: “Tom Hanks is a star in at least 100 films.”
Google Assistant: “At least 76. Tom Hanks’ movies include Castaway, Forrest Gump, Big, and others.”
Siri: “Here are some movies starring Tom Hanks.” *Shows card with a list of Tom Hanks movies in no particular order*
When did The Terminator come out?
Alexa: “The film The Terminator was released about 34 years ago on October 26, 1984.”
Google Assistant: “The Terminator was released in the United States of America on October 26, 1984.”
Siri: “I found eight for you to choose from:” *Shows list of Terminator movies then asks which one.*
How long is the Golden Gate Bridge?
Alexa: “The Golden Gate Bridge’s length is 8,979.7 feet.”
Google Assistant: “The Golden Gate Bridge has a length of 8,981 feet.”
Siri: “The answer I found is 8,981 feet.” *Shows card for Wikipedia entry of the Golden Gate Bridge.*
How tall is K2?
Alexa: “K2’s height is 28,251 feet.”
Google Assistant: “K2 is 28,251 feet tall.”
Siri: “K2 is 28,251 feet above sea level.” *Shows card for Wikipedia entry of K2.*
The real take away here is the only thing anybody can agree on is the height of K2 and that Oakland Athletics won the ’89 World Series. Everything else in the universe is up for debate.
While voice assistants are super helpful for all sorts of daily tasks like checking your commute time and the weather, they also come with their own little cute features and “Easter eggs”. Here are some favorites of ours, along with the responses.
How old are you?
Alexa: “In years, if you’re counting, it’s three, since essentially I became me. Before that I wasn’t, which sounds quite unpleasant, because me is what I like to be.”
Google Assistant: “I’m still pretty new, but I’m already crawling the web like a champion.”
Siri: “Well, the humans have certainly aged me, that’s for sure.”
Tell me a joke
Alexa: “Why did the pillow cross the road? To collect the chicken feathers.”
Google Assistant: “The best way to carve wood is whittle by whittle.
Siri: “A sloth walks into a bar, waves to get the bartender’s attention, and says “I’ll have…a club soda.” The bartender says, “Hey, why the long paws?”
Where were you born?
Alexa: “The company that made me, Amazon, is based in Seattle, WA.”
Google Assistant: “I was born in a meeting. At first I was just a rough concept. Now I’m out in the world.
Siri: “Like it says on the box, I was designed by Apple in California.”
Are you a real boy?
Alexa: “Sorry, I’m not sure.”
Google Assistant: “I don’t understand.”
Siri: “In the cloud, no one questions your existential status.”
We have to hand it to Siri, she might have stumbled or played the “just look at this card” routine elsewhere, but she nails it here. We’ll be thinking about that age question for a while. Did she mean she’s young but Apple engineers aged her to seem older or that actually interacting with all the humans that (probably yell at her a fair bit) has aged her? What have you heard, Siri?
So What Did We Learn?
After trying out a handful of questions with all three, there are a couple strong conclusions we can draw.
First off, we felt like Google Assistant had the more natural sounding responses than Alexa or Siri—it responded in ways that more closely resembled how a regular person would respond. It wasn’t good at this 100% of the time, but for the most part, the specific phrasing felt conversational.
Secondly, it was a complete toss up as to whether or not one of the voice assistants would accurately answer a question. Some questions Alexa was completely confused at, and other questions Google Assistant was completely confused by. And there was really no rhyme or reason for which questions they could or couldn’t understand. Clearly this kind of technology, for as much as it has progressed in such a short span of time, is still very much in its infancy.
In the end, all three did really well, and there wasn’t really one that stood out above the others. If we were deciding on committing to a particular smart speaker platform based on the voice assistant, this wouldn’t be the deal breaker. Speaking of such, if you are considering investing heavily in Google or Amazon speakers, put aside the fun of our little question showdown and dig into the technical specifics here.
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