Siri for Android -- sort of

We test a variety of Android apps that offer some of the functionality of Apple's Siri voice recognition feature.

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Iris

Dexetra

Price: Free

Other versions: None

Iris
Iris

What it does: This alpha app currently calls, texts, does Web searches, chats and looks for contacts. There are voice-recognition placeholders for tasks that will presumably be implemented soon. If you say "Go to Computerworld.com," for example, for now it just responds "Thanks for that Web address."

(And yes, the name is indeed "Siri" in reverse.)

Why you might want it: Although Iris is somewhat limited now, downloading it will let you monitor future versions as developers add new capabilities. And the "Ice Cream Sandwich Inspired UI" is nice and uncluttered.

Drawbacks: This is still listed as an alpha project and it performs that way -- a recent 2.0 version was rolled back to version 1.2 due to problems. And functionality is limited -- I had trouble getting it to do basic features such as making calls or sending texts, although it did a nice job on the weather and could answer, "Why is the sky blue?"

Bottom line: Iris isn't particularly useful -- yet. It is worth keeping an eye on as it gets more mature and moves out of alpha.

Jeannie

Pannous

Price: Free (with ads; product was formerly called Voice Actions)

Other versions: Voice Actions Plus: $2.99 (without ads, faster responses)

Jeannie
Jeannie

What it does: Makes calls, sets alarms and reminders, sends messages, social networking, records audio and video, answers questions, does some translations, searches multiple sites, answers questions and more. Jeannie is ad-supported and free; if you want to get rid of the advertising, Voice Actions Plus is $2.99, ad-free and pledges prioritized faster responses, a beta "listen in background" feature and increased stability.

Why you might want it: Jeannie has the functionality of Google Voice but adds spoken responses and many more features. For example, it will search on specific sites such as Amazon, eBay and Wolfram Alpha, not just Google. It also translates from English to common languages such as Spanish, French and Chinese. (Google Translate handles more languages and translates written as well as spoken text.)

Drawbacks: Not all the functions work as promised. The app appears to be able to add items to my calendar but it doesn't seem to work if I say I don't want a reminder. (The developer's website says calendar functionality is coming.) And the horoscope started reading me HTML tags.

I had more trouble with voice recognition using both Jeannie and Voice Actions Plus than others I tested -- especially before changing the default voice recognition from Samsung to Google -- but I still had issues even after switching.

Bottom line: Although this app does a lot, problems with voice recognition and the user interface made it frustrating at times. For example, it's difficult to figure out how to phrase queries. On the app's Market page, the developer says the paid version will soon offer Nuance's technology for better voice recognition -- and if that happens, I'd give the app another try.

Skyvi

BlueTornado

Price: Free

Other versions: None

Skyvi
Skyvi

What it does: Gives info "about everything from local businesses to food nutrition," according to its developer. It also accesses Facebook and Twitter, and offers some "personality" by attempting to offer humorous responses. For example, ask it to marry you and it answers, "You seem nice, but I'm not into humans in that way."

Why you might want it: This app taps into the Wolfram Alpha knowledge base to answer questions and is also designed to do Facebook and Twitter social networking by voice command.

Drawbacks: An app that answers "What's the weather forecast?" with "Definition: noun: a forecast of the weather" and "Open my email" with "How old are you?" needs some work on parsing natural-language commands. In addition, it does not open apps, make calls or send emails, and the Wolfram responses are much more limited than with Wolfram Alpha itself.

Bottom line: Although Skyvi bills itself as Siri for Android, it is currently missing a number of basic assistant functions. Hearing an occasional humorous answer to a question may be briefly amusing, but the personality here isn't impressive enough to make up for the lack of communication or Web navigation.

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