Who are they?
Alexa and Siri are two very good personal assistants and both have some unique features. Siri has been around since 2011, first appearing on the iPhone 4s and Alexa has been around since 2014 on the Amazon Echo and more recently in 2016 on the Echo Dot. The immediate advantage of Siri is that it is built into most current Apple devices, but Alexa needs a standalone unit. Alexa is always listening, you just need to say her name. Apple offers ‘Hey Siri’ but this only works in some situations but mostly you have press a button to activate it.
One of the features I like about Siri is that you can dictate text into messages or emails without having to type, Alexa does not include a similar feature but I hope to see it in the future. Alexa has something called skills, these are like apps that you can install. For example, you can get an Uber skill that can order you a ride using your voice, or a Just Eat skill to order a takeaway with your voice. Siri can do similar things but is mostly limited to opening 3rd party apps. Smart homes and smart devices are getting a lot more popular now and both Alexa and Siri can be used to control your smart home. Siri uses apple home kit to control devices and Alexa can use skills or for some things like Philips Hue and Nest without skills. Alexa can give you news and weather updates just by saying ‘Alexa give me my flash briefing’. This is similar to Siri, if you say ‘What’s going on?’ Siri will show you what is trending on twitter (if you have the twitter app installed).
Music is one of the big reasons that I bought the Echo, however, I was slightly disappointed when I tried to link it to my Spotify account as I found out that you have to be a premium member to even use Spotify with Alexa. I was able to import my playlist into Amazon Music but if you are not a prime member then you will not be able to do this either. Just keep this in mind if you are not a premium member of Spotify.
Alexa and Siri in Action
Here are some questions I have asked Alexa and Siri and their responses.
Q: What is on at the cinema?
Alexa: ‘Here are some films playing near you today…’
Siri: ‘Here are nine films playing today’
Q: Give me directions to London.
Alexa: ‘Sorry directions are not yet supported.’
Siri: ‘Getting directions to London’ Then opens the maps app and gives you directions.
Q: Where is the nearest restaurant?
Alexa: ‘Based on your postcode, here are some restaurants nearby…’ Speaks five local restaurants
Siri: ‘OK check it out…’ Shows one restaurant on map
Both Alexa and Siri are very effective personal assistants however I prefer Alexa. She is always listening, has lots of very good features, I particularly like the voice control when listening to music and she even sounds like a real person. Oh and if you ask nicely, she might even sing Happy Birthday!!