Google’s Android platform has woven in voice actions for some time, but it’s only in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean that Google has managed to bring voice commands to the forefront in a meaningful way. Mostly, by dressing up the voice search interface, and making voice search available from any screen.
Apple deserves much of the credit for first making its voice assistant, Siri, the star, and for making Siri accessible from the iPhone’s central hardware button. First Samsung and then Google followed suit with more engaging voice action assistants that also spring from the bottom of the phone screen when you press a button (Galaxy S3) or swipe up (Jelly Bean).
Unfortunately for Samsung, Siri trounced S Voice in one-to-one performance combat, but luckily for Google, Voice Search’s new Voice Actions feature was fairly accurate in our tests. The two of us, Brian and Jessica, each tested half the commands on both the iPhone 4S and on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus updated with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Brian tested the phones in New York and Jessica tested in San Francisco. Here’s what we found.
For simply making a call with your voice, it’s hard to beat Siri’s simplicity. After holding down the iPhone 4S’ home button to launch Siri, Brian said, “Call Jessica Dolcourt, mobile.” Out of three test attempts, Siri understood Brian perfectly every time.
The experience with Google Voice Actions wasn’t as smooth. To kick Android Jelly Bean into listening mode, you swipe a finger upward from the bottom of any home screen. From here you either say “Google” or tap the microphone icon in the Google search window. Brian’s first few tries to command the Galaxy Nexus to place a call were misinterpreted.
He was successful on the third attempt, with the Nexus properly carrying out orders. Interestingly, Google Voice Actions’ accuracy increased when Brian spoke to the Nexus through a quality Bluetooth headset.
Using the iPhone 4S to send text messages using just our voices was a breeze as well. After Brian uttered, “Send text to Jessica Dolcourt,” Siri quickly prepared Brian’s message, then asked…