Siri battles Google Now in new contest

The two voice assistants were pitted against each other in a series of challenges from analyst Gene Munster.

Siri and Google Now.
Siri and Google Now. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Which is better: Apple's Siri or Google Now? Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster recently put them both to the test.

First, let's take a look at Siri's performance.

Based on the results of 800 different queries, Siri showed an improvement in iOS 7 when compared to its behavior under iOS 6. Apple's voice assistant answered 79 percent of all the questions and fared better in a noisy environment than it did in last year's test results. Specifically, the latest version of Siri got a higher mark than the previous version for its ability to interpret questions, but a lower one for its failure to answer them correctly.

The biggest change in Siri over the past year has been its reliance on Bing, WolframAlpha, and Wikipedia over Google, Munster said in an investors' note released Tuesday. In the test, Siri used Google only 4 percent of the time, versus 27 percent a year ago.

The verdict? Siri passed with a grade of C+, ongoing progress from the C awarded last December and a D in the summer of 2012.

Based on the same 800 queries, Google Now also showed an improvement from last year. The voice assistant for Android -- though there's also an iOS version -- fared better than previous versions at understanding questions in a noisy environment and interpreting the questions. Google Now earned better grades than last year across the board; though, its ability to answer all questions correctly was down from last summer.

The verdict? Google Now took home a grade of C+, tying with Siri. The new grade revealed a marked improvement from the D- doled out last December.

"We believe that our test suggests that Google Now and Siri are comparable in terms of understanding the spoken queries and returning the correct result," Munster said. "In our test, both Google Now and Siri both correctly understood 94 percent of total queries regardless of environment (noisy or quiet). In terms of accuracy of answer, we determined that Google Now accurately answered and understood queries 81 percent of the time, compared to 83 percent for Siri. But when factoring in all queries, both Google Now and Siri answered 79 percent of queries."

With Siri and Google Now neck and neck, the onus is on Apple and Google to continue to beef up their voice assistants for Munster's next experiment.

Last month, CNET conducted a similar challenge by throwing several questions at Siri and Google Now . The result?

"In many ways, Siri still has a leg up on productivity," CNET associate editor Sharon Vaknin said. "But if you compare it to the entire package that Google Now offers, Google Now is much more convenient."

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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