Google Assistant on an iPhone does a better job than Apple's Siri; with a few shortcomings

This year's Google I/O sure got Apple fans excited for one big reason. Google finally brought its smart digital virtual Assistant to iOS and the iPhone. The move is a big one, and shows how much Google actually cares about its customers who are locked down to the iOS ecosystem. The app however is only available for iPhone users in the US and has yet to make its way to India. I tried out the app for a while (using a US iTunes account) and I am pretty impressed by what Google has achieved with the limited access it gets on Apple's iPhone. But as I delved deeper I discovered that this opinion depended on two factors, your region and the ecosystem that you are dependent on.

Google Assistant on iPhone (1)

My default email ID has been a Gmail account for years. But after switching to iOS a few years ago, I have come to learn that as a reviewer is best to stick to apps and services that are available on both iOS and Android. So after going in for an iPhone a couple of years ago, I found myself switching from Google Drive to Dropbox, from the defacto Gmail app to an email client, from Google Keep to Evernote. The simple idea behind this is that you get most of features that these third-party alternatives to Google apps provide on both devices (iOS and Android) as opposed to sticking to The Apple Notes app and not having the same Notes experience on Android.

So when Google announced Assistant for iPhone, I expected the worst. Here's an assistant that works brilliantly on an Android smartphone, but with Google's limited access to an iPhones hardware and apps, I expected it to be a complete mess.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Beginning with your standard stuff in terms of features, there was one big hurdle while using Google's Assistant. There's no hot word activation on an iPhone because Apple Siri uses it as her birth right. There's no access to double tapping the home button to activate either, well, because.... Siri. So Google used iOS's today screen to make it easier to access Assistant. Just pin the Assistant widget and you have a software button that is accessible from the lock screen with a simple swipe to right. While the implementation is lacking, it was useful nonetheless.

Google Assistant iPhone 2

As for the rest of the features that you will get on Google Assistant versus Siri on an iPhone, I have put out a simple table below.

Features Google Assistant on iPhone Siri on iPhone
Trigger No voice trigger or button Voice trigger "Hey Siri" or long press on Home button
Separate section to display information and results Yes. In app Yes. Intergrated in iOS
Displays contextual information Yes, In widget or notifications Yes
Works with Voice and typing Voice
Natural language processing Yes Yes
Query history Yes No
Supported devices Android devices iOS devices and Google Home All devices running iOS, macOS and tvOS
What does it connect to? Google apps, third party apps home automation or supported IoT enabled devices and standard TV's via Chromecast Data stored in your iPhone, home automation or supported IoT devices
Undertands… Different accents Has trouble
Third party app support Yes Yes

Coming to queries, Assistant is smarter and in India can get more done as well. You will need to install all those Google apps like Calendar, YouTube, Maps, Gmail and more to get what you need when you need it.

Google Assistant iPhone

Siri's result on the left and Google Assistant's result on the right.

But once you have Google apps set up on your phone, Assistant feels full fledged even when compared to the native Siri. A simple example is navigation. I asked Siri "How do I get home from here?" With all her grey matter, she wasn't able compute the same, because Apple Maps is does not provide navigation in India. Google Assistant however could even take up advanced queries related to navigation, because well, it has the Google Maps app on my iPhone.

So here's a list of To do's and Can't Do's between the two assistants on the iPhone.

Queries Google Assistant on iPhone Siri on iPhone
Set Reminders Yes Yes
Place phone calls Yes Yes
Send text messages Yes Yes
Send emails Yes. But only if you have Gmail app installed Yes. But only using default Mail app
Set calendar event Yes. But only if you have Calendar app installed Yes
Play Music Yes. Using Play Music or YouTube Yes. But only Apple music or Spotify
Navigation Yes. Using Google Maps Not available for India
General queries (weather, calculations etc) Yes Yes
Context Yes Yes (limited)


Google's saving grace with Assistant is the fact that it has every single Google service (Calendar, Music, Keep, Maps) in the form of an app, available on a rival operating system. Had Apple made such a move with Siri on Android, it would have been a complete mess. Secondly, even though I have detached myself from a number of Google services I did find it comforting that I had a healthy selection of Google apps available at my disposal, which are good enough to convince me to switch sides. And that I think is Google's pitch here. Selling the best of its services with a machine learning to connect them all together.

Google Assistant on iPhone (2)

Out here in India, it could very well be a better alternative to Siri's limited capabilities on your iPhone. If you are heavily dependent on Google's bouquet of apps and services, Google Assistant is literally the cherry on the cake. If you live in the US, Assistant on an iPhone is a great alternative if you are dependent on Google's apps and services, because if you're not, Siri would naturally be a better choice because she is available all the time at your beckoning at the push of button.

Published Date: May 19, 2017 17:18 PM | Updated Date: May 19, 2017 17:18 PM