17 September 2012

Apple fans were notably disappointed when the iPhone 4S came out last year. The Apple faithful had been holding their collective breath, hoping to see the next generation of smart phone, the iPhone 5. What the World got was a slightly improved iPhone 4; an upgrade but not a game changer. In fact, the one real improvement on the 4S over previous generations of the iPhone was a new app, Siri.

Siri is billed as an “intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator”, which is simply a fancy way of saying it is an application that makes your smart phone act as a personal secretary. What makes Siri unique is its interface. Rather than being completely dependent upon a graphical user interface through keys or the touch screen, Siri has a voice interface. In order to tell Siri what you want it to do, you simply speak the command.

Apple’s biggest competition in the smart phone market is from Google’s Android. Many Tech watchers would tell you that the upstart Android is no competition to iOS, that Apple got too big of a headstart, and Siri is just the latest proof.

Aside from the voice interface, the important parts of Siri are the “intelligent personal assistant”, which is a mobile app that organizes and sends your voice and text messages and personal schedule, and the “knowledge navigator”, which is essentially a sophisticated, voice activated search engine.

Siri might appear to be a nail in Android’s coffin, until you consider how important the search function is to the “knowledge navigator”. Android, even though it is Open Source, is a Google product. It simply does not pay to challenge Google in matters relating to search!

Android is in the process of rolling out its latest version, Android 4.1 “Jellybean”. One of the prominent features of Jellybean will be Google’s Voice Search. Voice Search has been developed, along with Google’s new Knowledge Graph, with the stated purpose of making search “more like the computer from Star Trek”.

One area where Voice Search has taken a different course from Siri is in personality. Siri came out of the box with a cutsie personality built in. There were also a number of things that it would not search for, which was interpreted as an editorial comment. Voice Search eschews any sort of personality at this point, but it is expected that app developers will provide a wide choice in the near future. Interestingly, even without a “personality” per se, reviewers find the voice of Voice Search more human sounding, less robotic, than Siri.

In purely search related work; Voice Search seems to be superior to Siri. In phone to phone comparisons between the 4S and the new Samsung Nexus 7, using iOS6 and Jellybean 4.1, respectively, Voice Search blows Siri away. When both phones are asked for pictures of French Bulldogs, Jellybean pops open the Google Image page almost instantly, while Siri first confirms that the user would like to see pictures, and then takes notably longer to retrieve the same pictures as Jellybean. Weather and Sports questions were also notably faster with Jellybean.

As noted, Jellybean is still being rolled out, and because of the complications of Android culture (handset manufacturers ultimately decide which operating system is available) there will be inevitable delays before Voice Search becomes universal. Apple is expected to release a new iPhone in the near future, and there are sure to be improvements to Siri in that package. Whether there is a single winner in the developing competition or not, mobile search will have huge implications for SEO.

To learn how to take advantage of the marvelous marketing opportunities with mobile media, or simply optimize your company’s web presence, contact us and schedule a Free Half Hour Consultation with Chad Morgan.

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