Every once in a while, I’ll check in with other digital personal assistants. I use the feature so infrequently, both on Android and iOS, that any real milestones with these types of things don’t have a lasting effect. I was pretty excited to see how Google expanded Now On Tap with Assistant, though, especially as the company puts the digital personal assistant in more places.
I picked up a Google Home as soon as I could, and setting it up was pretty great. Talking to Assistant for certain things, like getting updated on the news, or weather, or sports teams, and whatever else, was cool enough. Ultimately, though, it just became a smart speaker with some frustrating limitations (especially when using Google Play Music), and it found a new home with a relative.
Most recently I got some time to use Cortana, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant, and I’m just going to admit right here that this option is still my favorite. And yes, it’s because I’m such a huge fan of the Halo video game series, so Microsoft automatically gets a leg up versus the competition here.
But it’s also just the look of the feature, the way it converses, and the fact Cortana can do so much.
Just browsing in Edge, Microsoft’s latest web browser, for instance, means you can get notified for coupons while you’re shopping. That’s not necessarily something I’d ever use, but I can admit that’s pretty awesome.
Cortana and Google’s Assistant have a lot more in common than Apple’s Siri has with any other option. Siri is basically its own thing now, and, when compared to the abilities baked into Cortana and Assistant, it’s kind of frustrating that the digital personal assistant that basically started it all has fallen by the wayside.
Of course, one has to admit that Apple doesn’t have the same reach as Microsoft or Google. With Bing and, well, Google, and email, and a whole host of other things that can be used to make those services better, Apple doesn’t have easy access to.
But at the same time, after spending time with Assistant and Cortana, I realized the most blatant thing that Siri is missing, at least in my daily use: proactive behavior. Cortana and Assistant, in their own ways, both have information ready to go when you access them. Thanks to Google Now, a whole host of information regarding sports, package tracking, weather, news, and more is right there in an easy-to-digest list.
And you open Cortana, on mobile or on the desktop, and it’s ready with information: package tracking, weather, sports, news, and more. Siri, on the other hand, just sits there in the background waiting to be summoned.
Siri has a tendency to provide more information about a question you ask, like sports scores and what not, but if I could trade that particular function for simply being able to call up Siri, and have her show me right off the bat what I might ask? I’d do that in a heart beat.
I actually want both, though. I want Siri to provide me with the information I want without having to necessarily ask all the time. Just be ready with it. But at the same time I also want the ability to ask for what I want and/or need, too. Cortana and Assistant make this possible, and it makes Siri feel even older and left behind as a result.
Apple’s constantly working on improving Siri, expanding the functionality, and I’m sure that when iOS 11 (or whatever they call it) rolls around, the digital personal assistant will probably gain some new tricks. That’ll be good for owners across the board, even if it’s hard to argue that the competition will probably continue to still outpace Apple’s slow rollout.