Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, is heavily embedded into the company’s iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, macOS, and tvOS operating systems. And yet, specifically on iPhone and iPad, it’s not the only game in town. Here are three Siri alternatives and why you should (or shouldn’t) use them.
Limitations of Third-Party Voice Assistants
Before reading about the Siri alternatives, it’s important to note some of the key limitations to these services. Perhaps the top reason is that third-party tools can’t access system-level functions such as opening apps or making setting changes.
Third-party solutions also lack hands-free voice control. “Hey, Siri,” automatically opens Apple’s voice assistant, regardless of what you’re doing on your device. Commands like “Okay Google,” and “Alexa” only work when you’re directly using the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa app, respectively.
Why Use a Third-Party Voice Assistant?
Despite these two significant limitations, third-party voice assistants are still a popular solution for some users. For example, in a home with many Amazon Echo devices, it would make sense to use Amazon Alexa from your iPhone to control your music. Similarly, if most of your home devices connect through Google Assistant, not Apple’s HomeKit, you’d be better off using apps from Google on your Apple device.
Another big reason to use a third-party assistant over Apple Siri? The other solutions on this list are offered across multiple platforms, while Siri remains firmly stuck in all things Apple.
Two of the three most popular Siri alternatives for iPhone happen to come from two of the largest technology companies in the world, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. There’s also Lyra from Artificial Solutions.
Voice assistants wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for Alexa. First introduced on a single, smart speaker in 2014, the assistant can voice interaction, set alarms, music playback, real-time information reporting, and much more. Through the use of third-party “skills,” you can teach Alexa to do thousands of other tasks across multiple platforms.
The Amazon Alexa app for iPhone allows you to set up your Alexa-enabled devices, control or check the status of your compatible smart lights, lights, and other smart home equipment, and create and manage routines to automate those devices.
The free app is also integrated with various music services, including Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio. You can play the music content across each of your supported speakers separately or group them for a multi-room experience.
Sample Alexa commands include:
- Rate songs (e.g., “Alexa, I like this song” or “Alexa, thumbs down.”)
- Set multiple timers (e.g. “Alexa, set a second timer for 5 minutes.”)
- Order an Uber (e.g. “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride.”)
- Check headlines (e.g., “Alexa, what’s in the news?”)
- Timely news (e.g., “Alexa, what’s the latest with the coronavirus?”)
- Listen to audiobooks (e.g., “Alexa, next chapter” or “Alexa, previous chapter.”)
To get started with Amazon Alexa, you must have an Amazon account.
A little younger than Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri, Google Assistant launched in 2016 and is primarily available on mobile and smart home devices. A successor to Google Now, Google Assistant is similar to the other voice assistants. However, it has often been celebrated for recognizing complex commands and strings or related questions. Thanks to this technology, you can engage in two-way conversations with the tool.
Not surprisingly, Google Assistant heavily integrates with other Google products that also have a place on the iPhone. These include YouTube, YouTube Music, Gmail, Google Maps, Photos, and much more.
Sample commands include:
- Make quick phone calls (e.g. “Call Dad.”)
- Send text messages (e.g. “Text Jennifer B.”)
- Email your boss (e.g., “Here are the monthly reports.”)
- Set reminders (e.g. “Remind me to buy a graduation gift for Chris.”)
- Set calendar events (e.g. “Set a calendar event for dinner with Samantha tomorrow from 5-6:30.”)
- Play music (e.g. “Play rock music on YouTube.”)
- Navigate places (e.g., “Get me directions home.”)
- Weather information (e.g., “Do I need a coat today?”)
You can find the free Google Assistant app on the App Store.
Are you tired of the bloat that has become a big part of Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant? Consider Lyra, a personal digital assistant that (so far) keeps to the essentials. As such, it knows how to find local restaurants, translate words, tell jokes, find directions, search your contacts, find a weather forecast, and more. Originally launched for Android phones in 2013, Lyra has grown steadily over the years. It’s now known for its cross-platform functionality and ability to maintain conversations across multiple devices.
Pick up the free Lyra Personal Assistant app on the App Store.
What About Cortana?
Microsoft’s voice assistant, Cortana, is still available on iOS (and Android), at least in the United States and other locations. However, beginning in late 2019, the assistant was slowly removed from other App Stores worldwide, suggesting its future is in doubt. With this type of uncertainty, Cortana can’t be recommended for iPhone and iPad users at this time.
The Future of Voice Assistants
Ideally, the best voice solution for Apple devices remains Siri because of its deep integration. And yet, there are reasons you might want to use an alternative on your iPhone or iPad. Of these, the most popular solutions are Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Lyra is another voice assistant worth considering. However, its compatibilities aren’t nearly as robust as the others.