Singlish-speaking Siri rival seen in Singapore

A new voice-recognition app from Singapore carrier SingTel aims to help iPhone and Android users talk to their phones with a local dialect made up of English and non-English words, something Siri can't do yet.

Apple's Siri voice assistant.
Apple's Siri voice assistant. Apple

Apple's Siri voice assistant may soon have some competition in Singapore.

Local carrier SingTel has cooked up its own voice-recognition assistant application for iPhone and Android that's designed to understand the locals, reports Agence France-Presse.

The app, called DeF!ND, is able to pick up on what the AFP refers to as "Singlish" which is a blend of English and words in languages from neighboring countries, along with a helping of local accents.

By comparison, Apple's Siri (which is still in beta) currently supports English, French, and German. Apple has said that it's bringing support for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian and Spanish sometime next year, meaning that Singapore iPhone 4S users currently need to know one of the three supported languages to make use of the feature. Even so, some users who speak those languages have reported serious troubles getting Siri to understand accents, notably those in Scotland.

Worth noting is that DeF!ND cannot fully compete with Apple's Siri in that it's not a deeply integrated part of the phone's operating system. Siri is able to make phone calls, transcribe speech, check weather and stocks, and set timers and reminders, among other duties no matter what you're doing on your phone. By comparison, DeF!ND requires that users first find and launch the app before having it pull up things like nearby locations.

DeF!ND is the latest in a long series of third-party voice-assistant applications, though noteworthy given that it's coming from a carrier that sells the iPhone as a stopgap between now and when Apple adds additional language support. Other voice recognition tools iPhone users can make use of include Vlingo, Dragon Go, Voice Actions, and Google's free Search app.

The news coincides with the launch of the iPhone 4S on SingTel as part of Apple's greater rollout of its phone to 22 additional countries. The new phone, whose crowning feature is Siri (among hardware improvements), arrived in the U.S., Canada and several other countries earlier this month, and has already become the company's fastest-selling product to date.

AFP says that SingTel will release the app for both Apple's iOS and Google's Android in the near future.

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