Google muscles in on Siri with voice-enabled iOS Search app

Google, search app

Siri is finally getting some big-time competition on iOS devices. Google’s updated search app has finally made it through the App Store review process and is now ready to deliver Siri-like voice queries and responses.

The app update, which was first shown off in August, provides users with the ability to voice their questions and, in many cases, get a response back in a pleasant female voice that sounds kind of like you-know-who. I took it for a spin and asked what diners were nearby, how many ounces were in a pound and how old Matt Damon was. My questions were quickly transcribed and the answers came back in a zip.

Google’s search app is able to use your location and other information it knows about you to form its responses. Movie trailers, pictures, weather forecasts, translations and other content get presented on their own pages. In cases when it can’t provide a quick answer, it points to a relevant website. For questions about specific locations, Google offers up the option for directions, which can be completed through the web version of Google Maps, for iOS 6 users, or the native maps app, for users who haven’t upgraded to iOS 6.

Google search app users won’t be able to schedule appointments, set reminders or look up contacts like you can with Siri. But it’s a nice alternative and it shows the work that Google has been doing with its Knowledge Graph, which focuses on answers not links, and with other similar products like Google Now, a contextual search tool in the latest version of Android.

I really appreciate the speed of the answers and the general accuracy I’m seeing with the Google search app. Siri will always have an edge on iOS devices because it’s built into operating system, but I can imagine people giving the Google search app a more prominent position thanks to this latest update.

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