Cortana vs. Siri vs. Google Assistant

Should you OK Google, Hey Siri, or talk to Cortana? Here's the top voice assistant

Smart assistants might be the tip of the iceberg in taking away our jobs in the future, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make use of them in the meantime. Virtual assistants like Cortana, Siri, Google Assistant, and many others, are now a major feature of smartphones and tablets, so knowing which one is best could have a major impact on what your next hardware purchase might be.

To see how these different smart assistants measure up, we pitted Cortana vs. Siri vs. Google Assistant in a virtual assistant head to head.

If you already have your smart assistant of choice, why not check out our guide on how to use Cortana with Windows 10, or read up on some of the funniest questions to ask Siri.

Voice accuracy and speed

Google Assistant Continued Conversations

A digital assistant is primarily controlled by a user’s voice, and so its ability to know when it’s being spoken to, and to understand what’s being said, is important. Each one has a wake word or phrase that it listens for, such as “Hey Cortana,” “Ok, Google,” and “Alexa,” which tells the digital assistant to listen and respond to what’s said next — but if you have a niche accent or don’t like to shout, are some assistants better at understanding you than others?

While each of the major voice assistants offers good voice recognition, Google Assistant and Siri are better at picking up what you say, especially when there is environmental noise, or the assistant itself is relaying some information to the user. Microsoft claims Cortana has a good understanding of context, but it struggles much more than the other two in actually hearing what you’re saying. Silent environments are best when using it, as background noise can really interfere with it picking up what you’re asking of it.

In terms of response time to queries, Google Assistant comes out on top again, consistently providing fast replies to requests. Cortana and Siri were both hot on its heels, however. When the request is picked up clearly by the alternative digital assistants, Cortana can often edge out Siri, but it very much depends on the requests you make of them.

Features and capabilities

iOS 12
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

Whichever virtual assistant you use, they all support the same basic functions such as the ability to set calendar events, set alarms, make calls, send emails and messages for you, and play music. But each also has their quirks and special features which make them unique in their own ways.

For searches and responding to queries for information, Cortana uses Microsoft’s own Bing search engine, while both Siri and Google Assistant use Google. Although the latter two might use the same search platform when you ask for information on restaurants, Siri will prompt you to call or make a reservation. If you know where you want to eat already, all three can make a reservation or order food for you.

Google Assistant has another advantage for those who regularly use the Google search engine: it already knows a lot about you. While that does raise some concerns over privacy, it also means that it’s arguably the most personalized of services — at least when you first get started using it. Its Google Duplex natural voice system holds great promise for more natural communication with Google Assistant too, whether that’s between it and the owner, or with others.

Some of the features offered by the assistants perform differently depending on which platform you’re using them on. Google Assistant reads the news to you on a Home speaker, while Cortana will do that on a smartphone. Siri only likes playing music through Apple music, while Cortana and Google Assistant work just fine with Spotify and music stored on your device.

Ecosystem integration

microsoft build 2018 keynote ai revolution day two cortana timeline

Arguably the starkest difference between the main virtual assistants is what hardware and platforms they can integrate with. Siri might work well with Homepod speakers, Airpod headphones, and on devices like the iPhone and iPad, but you can’t pull it up on your Android device or Windows PC. In comparison, Google Assistant is available on Android and iOS platforms, and with a few tweaks, you can even get it running on Windows or Linux. It also has compatible hardware options like the Google Home smart speaker and Chromecast, and is gradually being integrated with Chrome OS devices like the Google Pixelbook.

Cortana is much the same, with a wide range of hardware and software platform support. It’s integrated into Windows 10 devices of all kinds, including all Windows 10 PCs, the now-defunct Windows 10 Mobile, and the Xbox One console. Cortana also lives in a couple of smart devices, including the Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker, and there are increasingly powerful and important Cortana apps for iOS and Android.

Google Assistant wins out for now

Cortana, Siri, and Google Assistant are all fantastically capable virtual assistants and they have come on leaps and bounds in the past few years. We’re seeing them expand their software capabilities and platform support, but Google Assistant seems to be evolving the fastest and most effectively. It’s better at picking up what you’re saying and responding to your queries quickly. Better yet, its ecosystem support is broad and deep, letting you make use of it on the move whatever your smartphone of choice is.

Each of the digital assistants is at their best when using companion services from their developer. Siri works best with all of Apple’s services and hardware, while Cortana works great on Windows. Google Assistant though, is pretty flawless on most platforms and though it certainly benefits from integrating with some of Google’s other services, it’s versatile on a variety of platforms which gives it the edge.

Computing

These are the worst passwords of 2018. Is yours on this list?

Do you use a bad password that makes your online accounts easy to break into? SplashData has compiled a list of the top 100 worst passwords for 2018 and there are quite a few listings that were carryovers from prior lists.
Gaming

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?
Movies & TV

HBO Go vs. HBO Now: Which streaming service is right for you?

If you're looking to get access to HBO, you might be comparing HBO Go and HBO Now. We break down the differences between the twin streaming services and see how they compare to one another.
Home Theater

Step aside set-top boxes, the best streaming sticks are tiny and just as powerful

Which streaming stick reigns supreme? We pit the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra against the Roku Premiere, Roku Streaming Stick+, and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K to help you decide which one will be the best fit in your living room.
Smart Home

How to talk to Santa on Alexa and Google Assistant

Nothing say "holiday" like talking to Santa. Here's how to talk to Santa on Alexa and Google Assistant, whether he's helping you create a playlist or checking to see if you've been naughty or nice this week.
Computing

Go hands-free in Windows 10 with speech-to-text support

Looking for the dictation, speech-to-text, and voice control options in Windows 10? Here's how to set up Speech Recognition in Windows 10 and use it to go hands-free in a variety of different tasks and applications within Windows.
Computing

Microsoft could split up search and Cortana in the next Windows 10 release

In the latest Insider preview build, Microsoft is exploring ways to split up Cortana and search on Windows 10. If Microsoft moves ahead with this change, we could see separate search and Cortana options in the Spring 2019 Update.
Computing

Windows Update not working after October 2018 patch? Here’s how to fix it

Windows update not working? It's a more common problem than you might think. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot it and in this guide we'll break them down for you step by step.
Computing

Mining cryptocurrency for Razer Silver isn’t worth your computing power

Gaming peripheral maker Razer launched a cryptocurrency mining scheme called SoftMiner. You use its software to mine and in return, you get Razer Silver which you can use to buy Razer gear.
Computing

Microsoft’s latest patent paves the way for Andromeda dual-screen mobile device

The latest patent discovery from Microsoft showcases a new hinge design for quickly opening a dual-screen mobile device with a single hand. Could this be additional proof surrounding the rumors of the company's Project Andromeda device?
Computing

Heal your wrist aches and pains with one of these top ergonomic mice

If you have a growing ache in your wrist, it might be worth considering changing up your mouse for something ergonomic. But which is the best ergonomic mouse for you? One of these could be the ticket to the right purchase for you.
Computing

Nvidia’s Jetson AGX Xavier module is designed to give robots better brains

Nvidia's pricey Jetson AGX Xavier might help drive the next generation of smart robots. Nvidia hopes that developers will use its new Xavier module to power AI-driven machines like delivery drones and robots used in manufacturing.
Computing

These Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts will update your OG Windows skills

Windows 10 has many new features, and they come flanked with useful new keyboard shortcuts. Check out some of the new Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts to improve your user experience and save more time!
Computing

Leaked AMD Ryzen 3000 mobile benchmarks look fit for thin, low-power laptops

AMD is poised to give Intel a run for its money in the ultra-low-power processor space for laptops. Leaked benchmarks for the Ryzen 3000 APU series show the AMD processor besting Intel's Core i7 Y series in multicore performance.