Who needs Siri? Actually, judging by the iPhone 4S's sales numbers, a lot of people do. There's no need to feel left out if you've got an Android device or an older iPhone, though; a horde of virtual assistant apps are lined up around the proverbial block for a chance to help with your everyday needs. We screened the applications to separate the all-stars from the also-rans and highlight some of the best Siri clones for the job.
Speaktoit Assistant (Android, free; iPhone, $0.99)
Speaktoit Assistant (pictured) has thousands of happy users and dozens of positive press articles under its belt because frankly, it works, and it works well -- something a lot of other virtual assistant apps can't claim. Plus, Speaktoit Assistant lets you customize your virtual pal's name and which static cartoon image is used for his or her look. (The voice stays creepy and robotic throughout, however.) Your assistant can, among other things, look up information on the Web, play music, update your calendar, send emails, update your various social networks or even just chat back and forth with you.
As with any virtual assistant, it takes a bit of trial and error to learn which commands Speaktoit responds to and which just throw it into a funk. Hands-free fanatics may be disappointed that the app requires you to manually put contact information into the texts and emails it transcribes; you can't just say "Text Jim."
Vlingo's actually been around for longer than Siri, and it's available on all three of the top mobile operating systems. The app's toolset is powerful -- like Speaktoit and Siri, it can update your various social medias statuses, shoot off texts and emails and find various types of information, but in our experience with the app we found its voice recognition to often be inaccurate, sometimes wildly so. PCMag.com did too. Still, Vlingo's free and versatile, so it's worth trying out -- you may have better luck.
The cycloptic Evi is probably the closest thing to a straight-up Siri clone there is. In fact, Apple almost yanked Evi from the App Store earlier this year for its close resemblance. The app uses the same powerful Nuance voice recognition engine as Siri (and Nuance's own Dragon Go!). The engine recognizes conversational language better than other virtual assistants, which makes interacting with the app feel more natural. For example, if you search for something in Singapore, you can then ask "How's the weather there?" rather than "How's the weather in Singapore?" and Evi will know what you mean.
Evi's information-providing capabilities and voice recognition are second to none, but unfortunately, that's all she brings to the table. The app can't perform actions like checking your calendar or composing messages. Evi will perform calculations, however, and True Knowledge's deep data banks deliver answers to even some of the hardest questions you throw its way -- often without dumping you into a generic Google search.
Google Voice Search (Android, free)
Google Voice Search comes pre-installed on most Android phones and it's a highly accurate, voice-powered tool. Calling it an assistant is a bit much, though; Google Voice Actions won't supply in-app information for you -- though it will conduct a Google search -- and you can only interact with it using a strict list of predetermined commands.
Those commands, however, let you perform almost any basic action on your phone using (mostly) the power of your voice; you can send texts and emails, call contacts and businesses, listen to music, get directions, view a map, write a note or travel directly to a website. The app can't read off information, though, so you'll have to glance at the screen to see query results. If you're looking for a tool more than an assistant, Google Voice Actions is slick, scarily accurate and super easy to use.
What voice assistant app do you use?
These four apps are just the tip of the Siri clone iceberg. As we said before, there are a ton of voice assistant apps available, including Jeannie/Voice Actions, Eva/Evan Intern, Android Voice Xtreme, Iris, Skyvi, the aforementioned Dragon Go! and more. (Careful, some of those links lead to apps that cost money.) Which mobile voice assistant do you use?
For more information about both desktop and mobile voice-powered programs, check out our voice recognition software report.