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A major discussion point surrounding the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S III has been the inclusion of S-Voice, a direct competitor to Apple’s Siri voice-activated assistant as featured on the iPhone 4S. Both services are strikingly similar in that they share an interface which is broadly alike and likewise, both pull a large amount of their information from the Wolfram Alpha database.
But which offers the best functionality in the real world? We decided to pitch the two against each other to see if there were any discernable differences and whether their respective foibles should really influence your choice when considering buying one of these flagship devices.
In the test we looked at three key areas including ease of use, speed of operation and functionality. Obviously, a number of different variables can affect performance so in order to minimise this we ensured both handsets were on a strong Wi-Fi connection with full battery and any other apps closed down. We tested the services with a selection of questions and commands, noting the accuracy and response times each digital assistant yielded.
Ease of Use
Both services are, rather predictably, incredibly easy to use. On the Apple device, Siri can be activated simply by holding the handset to your ear and speaking your request. On the S III, the voice assistant can be set to launch by a simple vocal command such as “wake up Galaxy”. Start up times from the lockscreens were broadly similar on each, with Siri ready to launch in 2.8 seconds and S-Voice just behind at 3.3 seconds.
As will always be the case with any voice-based application, pronunciation is key to getting both Siri and S-Voice working properly. Any regional accents or slightly misspoken sentences are likely to provide wildly inaccurate results. It has to be said that Siri is slightly more forgiving here, whereas the Samsung service really does need very clear instructions in order to operate successfully.
Speed of Operation
It is in speed of operation that a real difference becomes apparent between the two devices, with response times differing massively. Whereas Siri is swift in answering questions and will reply to all responses fairly quickly (even just to let the user know that it is struggling to find an answer), S-Voice is at times painfully slow. In our tests the Samsung voice assistant had an average response time of 7.8 seconds.
Simple requests such as “what is the weather for today?” or “what is the capital of England?” are dealt with successfully by both devices, but Siri was consistently faster with an average response time of 5.6 seconds.
It is worth pointing out that despite S-Voice being slower, it is a little more intuitive in the respect that it will carry out a command automatically whereas Siri often needs a second command (such as yes or no) in order to complete the request. Therefore, S-Voice claws back a little in the time stakes, but Siri is still well ahead here.
Despite the Apple software being swifter in operation, S-Voice is able to offer a much deeper level of integration across the S III. For example, the Samsung service can be used to open the device’s camera as well as apps such as Facebook and Music Hub. Additionally, navigation commands are executed with ease, a department in which Siri can simply not compete due to its US bias.
That said, the Samsung software does seem overly reliant on web searches in certain situations, whereas Siri appears to be more self-assured and less reliant on Google.
Overall it is difficult to draw a clear winner in this contest. S-Voice is integrated into the handset experience to a greater extent and feels more intuitive on a holistic level thanks to its increased functionality. However, the Samsung software operates less efficiently than its Apple equivalent and in our tests Siri was much less prone to crashing whereas on a couple of occasions S-Voice simply exited without giving any kind of response.
Both Siri and S-Voice do feel a long way from realising their full potential as totally functional pieces of software, in our testing we found that the Apple software responded correctly 26% of the time and its Samsung competitor faring only slightly better with a 33% success rate. As such, we would not recommend basing a purchase decision of either device on their respective voice-activated apps. However, it has to be said that both S-Voice and Siri are novel inclusions within two of the most impressive handsets we have come across in recent years.