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

The Razer Core X Chroma is the best external GPU you can buy

The third entry in Razer's lineup of external graphics card enclosures, the Core X Chroma, brings together the best of its previous options in a single package. With RGB lighting and extra USB ports, is this the best you can buy?
Gaming

From platforms to games, here's how Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce size up

Google Stadia will have some stiff competition in Microsoft's Project xCloud, but that isn't the only game streaming service. We compared Google Stadia vs. Nvidia GeForce Now to see the differences and features.
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Amazon Prime Video: A battle of streaming giants

It might seem like Netflix should be your default choice as a streaming video service, but Amazon Prime Video's price and many extra perks make it a compelling alternative. Which one is best for you? Our comparison can help.
Home Theater

Sonos Beam vs. Sonos Playbar: Which home theater soundbar should you buy?

The Sonos Playbar and Sonos Beam: United by all of the features that make Sonos superb, they're two soundbars intended for very different situations. Which one is right for you? We put them head-to-head to find out.
Apple

Beats Powerbeats Pro vs. Bose SoundSport Free: Which big buds are better?

Two of the world's biggest headphone manufacturers, Bose and Beats, have both taken aim at workout enthusiasts with their first true wireless in-ears. So who makes the better earbuds?
Computing

Google recalls Titan Security Key due to hijack risk

Google is offering a free replacement for the Bluetooth Low Energy version of the Titan Security Key. A misconfiguration was discovered in the device, though hackers looking to exploit the vulnerability will find it difficult to do so.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Insect drones and kinetic sculpture robots

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Computing

Whether you want to edit, sign, or append, PDFs, these are the best PDF editors

While there are plenty of PDF editor options online, finding a solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here are the best PDF editors for your editing needs, no matter your budget or operating system.
Computing

Give your PC a new lease on life by upgrading its core components

Older PCs can still be great tools for work and play, they just need a little upgrade now and then. Here are the best upgrades you can make to your PC to make it feel fresh and fast once again.
Computing

The best software for filing your taxes — because you can never be too early

The best tax software offers a variety of services for saving money, completing your taxes at top speed, or getting advice for more complex tax scenarios that you haven't had to deal with before.
Computing

Through the wire, to the limit, to the wall: The 5 best ethernet cables

While our world may be transitioning to wireless connectivity, Ethernet connections are still faster and less prone to lag times than traditional Wi-Fi networks. Here are five of the best Ethernet cables you can buy.
Computing

Your amazing PC rig needs an amazing computer case. These are the very best

There's an incredible variety of PC cases on the market, but a few stand above the rest. Any of our five best computer cases will make your desktop look and work great, no matter what your budget is.
Emerging Tech

How Super Mario, Magic: The Gathering, and PowerPoint are low-key supercomputers

What if the creators of Super Mario World, PowerPoint, and even Magic: The Gathering had accidentally created tools hiding a general-purpose computer in plain sight? Turns out they have.
Computing

Yes, Google tracks and collects your online purchases through Gmail. But why?

Google has been tracking your purchase history and while the company says that the tracking is part of an effort to help you keep track of your purchases, there are indications that there might be other, less clear motives for doing so.