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Google unveils new Siri-like voice search app for iOS

It’s fun to ask Apple’s Siri things. Sure, you could easily just type in questions, requests and ponderings and get the same results (or, occasionally, even better ones, let’s be honest), but there’s just something inherently cool about being able to say them out loud and have the familiar double-beat noise sound before you get an answer. It’s like living in Star Trek or something (Yes, yes; I know that the iPad looks like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Padd; but you know what I mean). Ever mindful of that inherent coolness factor, Google has done the obvious thing in reaction: Created its own voice-activated search app.

The new Google Search app is available for iPad and iPhone devices – which seems a strange choice, considering that those devices already have Siri to play with; wouldn’t it have made more sense to make it available on Android devices thatdon’t currently have voice activated search, to try and level the playing field? – and offers, in Google’s own words, “enhanced voice search that answers any question with the comprehensive Google search results you know and love.” There’s even a video to accompany its debut:

“Fast and accurate voice recognition technology enables Google to understand exactly what you’re saying,” a post on the official Google blog explains. “Getting an answer is as simple as tapping on the microphone icon and asking a question like, ‘Is United Airlines flight 318 on time?’ Your words appear as you speak, you get your answer immediately and—if it’s short and quick, like the status and departure time of your flight—Google tells you the answer aloud.”

In other words, it’s essentially Siri, but with a Google accent.

It’ll remain to be seen what the uptake on this new app will end up being; while it’s arguably the case that Google’s search results may be better – or, perhaps, simply a more familiar and more trusted brand, and therefore more valuable to users – the fact that this is a separate app means that it lacks the ease of accessibility that Siri offers. It’s difficult to see what the differentiator is for this app beyond the Google brand – As the video demonstrates, there’s not even a particularly noticeable difference in the voice of the app and Siri’s American voice (You’d have thought that Google may have gone for a male voice to draw a line between their app and Apple’s internal offering; then again, maybe they weren’t convinced by British Siri) – but, for all we know, perhaps that’s intentional to make it easier to switch from one to the other.

(There are more subtle differences; compare the languages Google Search allows you to use to those Siri can handle, plus the in-page text finder and full-screen image search are likely to be pluses.)

Instead, perhaps we should consider this a playful reminder from one tech giant to another that “anything you can do, I can do… at least equally well.” Let’s just wait and see if Apple’s response is a search engine that offers up fun little changeable logos for anniversaries and birthdays, just in case…

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