SALT LAKE CITY — These days, many homes have a common resident: Siri, Alexa or Google Home.
Smart assistants are made to make everyday tasks easier for every user. They can read you daily headlines, set a timer and play music with a simple voice command. But what sets them apart from each other?
If you own an Apple product, you are most likely already acquainted with Siri.
“Siri is a faster, easier way to do all kinds of useful things," Apple says on its company website. “It’s on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePod — optimized for each Apple device and ready to help throughout your day.”
On devices where Siri is available, the system can usually be woken up by saying “Hey Siri” or pressing a button. You follow up with a command, such as “What’s on my calendar today?” or “Set a timer for 15 minutes.”
What sets Siri apart from most smart assistants is that it performs more like a person than a system. Apple says that Siri can learn to pronounce your name any way you like. Other basic commands include making calls, writing out texts, setting timers and reminders, and even taking pictures.
Although Siri is set as a female voice and automatically speaks English with an American accent, Apple makes it easy to customize. Siri can be changed to a male or female voice. Gadget Hacks explains how easy it is to change an English speaking Siri to have a British, Australian, Irish or South African accent. From Swedish to Malay, Siri can speak 20 languages.
A close competitor to Apple’s Siri is Amazon’s Alexa.
“With Alexa, you can build natural voice experiences that offer customers a more intuitive way to interact with the technology they use every day,” Amazon says on its website.
Alexa speaks the lowest number of languages, at only three according to Business Insider.
Alexa is exclusively voice-operated. The system turns on when someone says “Alexa.” You then give a command, similar to the way Siri is operated. Alexa can complete the same tasks as Siri, according to Amazon. She can mark something on your calendar, play music from various outlets, search the internet and connect to automated things in your home such as light bulbs and sprinklers.
The smart assistant can also connect to things like thermostats, smart vacuums and security systems, making it easier to run all the ins and outs of your home into one operation.
While Siri is available on everything from cellphones to speakers, Alexa is most commonly used with the Amazon Echo speaker, which starts at $99. There is also an Amazon Alexa mobile app available.
One thing that sets Alexa apart from other systems is the ability to purchase items. Amazon allows Alexa to purchase items from its catalog with simple voice commands such as “Alexa, purchase Crest 3D White Toothpaste,” according to Tom’s Guide.
Alexa is more popular in the home and workplace than in personal use since it's not quite as portable.
Sandwiched between Alexa and Siri is Google Assistant.
Google Assistant is a little more inclusive. Going against Siri’s affiliation with Apple devices, Google Assistant is available on Android products, according to its website. You can, however, download a mobile app for Google Assistant on non-Android products. It also has its own speaker — Google Home — similar to the Amazon Echo.
Compared to Siri's 20 languages, Google Assistant currently is only available in 11 languages, but more are coming soon according to the website.
To operate the assistant, you say “OK, Google” and then say a command. Google Assistant acts as sort of a mix of Siri and Alexa: According to Google, you can use the assistant to do tasks in and outside of your home.
“Shuffle your favorite playlist, dim your Philips Hue lights with just your voice, or ask your Assistant on Google Home to stream Netflix to your TV with Chromecast,” Google says.
Google Assistant is the cheapest option of the three smart assistants. The Google Home only costs $129 and the mobile app is available on most devices for free.
Responding to questions
If you ask all three assistants the same question, you’ll get three similar answers. We asked each assistant what the square root of pi is.
Google Assistant gives a very in-depth answer.
“According to Quora,” it says, “the square root of pi is one step towards the answer being 1. All numbers follow this pattern series and converge to 1. Of course, pi is a scalar constant that scales up the 'a' square 'r' with sides 'r' long, to be equal to the area of a circle.”
“The square root of pi is 1.77245385091,” Alexa says, bluntly.
“The square root of pi is approximately 1.77245,” said Siri, along with a picture of the math worked out.
With the combination of cost, availability and task completion, Google Assistant seems like the best choice. It’s available to anyone who has a cellphone or tablet for free and is able to achieve the same goals as Siri and Alexa. It also has the same smart-home connection capabilities. You might have to spend $30 more on a Google Home than you would on an Amazon Echo, but in the end, it may be worth it to have all your information connected.
No matter which smart assistant you prefer, they’re bound to make life easier.