Cortana vs Siri vs Google Now
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Cortana vs. Siri vs. Google Now

This morning, Cortana for Windows Phone 8.1 was unleashed to the US through the Preview for Developers program. Microsoft’s new personal voice assistant is taking aim against Apple’s Siri on the iPhone and Android’s Google Now.

But how well does Microsoft do out the gate? Will Cortana’s beta status hold her back?

We pitted Cortana against an iPhone 5S and a Motorola Moto X to see just how good (or bad) the new flagship Windows Phone feature compares. Head past the break to catch the video!

Our seven minute trial will take all three voice assistants through some basic tasks. We tried to be fair and give them all a chance to perform and sure enough, they all did. Such tasks given included:

  • “Call Sam Sabri on Skype”
  • “What is the weather like on Tuesday?”
  • “Navigate to Dunkin Donuts”
  • “What is the best rated Indian restaurant around me?”
  • “Post a new Tweet”
  • “Foursquare check-in”

What’s the take away? We’ll let you decide but from our hands on tests, we can definitely say that Microsoft’s Cortana, even as a beta, can go head to head with Apple and Google. While there is still room for improvement, Microsoft has done a commendable job of offering a similar service to their competitors, and it shouldn’t be too long before they surpass them.

How are you liking Cortana? Did you think our test was fair? Let us know below and don't forget to check out our Cortana forums!

Video credit: Mark Guim

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Reader comments

Cortana vs. Siri vs. Google Now

197 Comments

I had the some problem, but once I started Cortana from the app list (not the search button) and accepted the terms, the search button now stats Cortana as expected.

Email account not needed, only local settings on the phone affect it. However Cortana needs to be launched from the app list before the search button will launch her.

I just want confirm what Daniel says. I'm from Chile and I'm using Cortana. By the way, although I'm studying English teaching and translation, I have never been to the US and Cortana has been 100% accurate regarding my speech. Maybe my pronuncation is very good, but I guess it's actually a technology merit :D

It is technology merits... Even when I have said the wrong words by mistake Cortana somehow knows what I was meaning. I'm really impressed.

If you still are having trouble. I went to language and deleted the US. Then added it again. Did the restart and viola.. She appeared!!

hi daniel,

can you please confirm somehow if there is any way to get cortana outside usa in dev preview because none of the users have been able to confirm it yet on the forums.

Ohh not hard Reset.  Make sure US is at the top in the language selection.  Just hold down on the US and drag it to the top of the list.  Saw that in another post.
 

Thanks! Yes guys move US at the top in language section...  Worked for me without any hard reset. Give it a try.

I have changed like Daniel and others again and again and its not getting me Cortana. I think a fresh install may be the way out of this if it actually works but anyone outside the USA if confirms they have Cortana, then I will go ahead and  hard reset. Everything including keyboard language is set to US English on my phone still no sign of her.

Im in the UK and it has worked for me. You need to change your phone region to US and language to US. I then had to check for updates and download the new language. After the phone finished installing, I went to cortana and set the language tto US.

Change region, change language and make sure English US is the first language in the list. After a reboot Cortana will be in your apps list.

I'm in the same boat. Region was set to United States before my update. But I have a newer version of tell me. No Cortana.

Update: Cortana is now alive on my phone. Changed language to English US.

I am hard resetting my phone - in forums couple of guys have got it working after hard reset. Let me try that and I will get back to you guys here!

Daniel, I downloaded the 8.1 update. Everything works well except Cortana. If I ask her anything, she does a web search. I've seen videos of people ask her things, and she responds. When I ask the same question, I get a Bing web search. Why?

hey i didnt change my region and now im in the midst of updating it... if i change the region after all the update is done, cortana wil then work right?? im  at down under currently. :)

@daniel..this is off topic but whatever happened to the ebay app update that was supposed to happen in march?

Hay Daniel,

One crazy thing, I noticed in the video I watched it looks like you are now in my home town of Marlborough Ma ?

is that correct ? no more New York...

 

No, it was released in a WP version for developers. The fact that People are able to get it does not make it a public release.

I don't think it will break the warranty it's just software, and even if it did break the warranty you can wait until you gait Cyan (Nokia frimware) and you are back to your warrenty.
don't be scared it's the final version of the software, so nothing to worry about :)
PS: if something went wrong don't come and blame it on me :P 

Agreed, but not only that, Android loses big time when it comes to the Voice Assistants. This comparison showed it well. I even think Cortana wins this battle with ease and it will only get better as Cortana basically is still beta. Thanks for this video Daniel :)

Well we all thought that of Bing and yet it just got better in the US. Bing around the world is still a pile of sheit. just like cortana will be i bet

Agree, Bing around the world still some basic search engine from years ago.  I guess that's why we don't get cortana yet

Same here. It seems to me that they both did very well. I would like to point out that the first time Google Now takes a note for you it will let you select which app you would like to use. My Moto X gave the options of OneNote, Evernote, Gmail (like Daniel's did), and Keep. It also lets you decide whether to use the app once or remember your preference. All the same, I'm really liking the option to use Cortana on days when I want to use the awesome camera on my Lumia. Yay for OS feature parity! We all win!

Cool it buddy! I was merely commenting on the looks. Anyone can see that android and iPhone have way too similar UI. Windows really is different. And good.

Cool it? That was a *very* calm question. Lol.

I see now how I misunderstood your comment. I didn't realize you meant "looks" literally. Idk. Personally, I don't car for the look of WP, but that's just me. Which look you prefer is extremely subjective. I don't care for how the iPhone looks, either. I've never even found the phones themselves to look all that nice, like so many people seem to think. To each their own, I guess.

How is Windows phone years ahead of Android? I don´t even have to touch a button to bring up my voice commands on my Moto X.

And I´m not sure if you can ask follow up questions with Cortana. Like who is the President of China, how old is he... And stuff like that... 

But I think it´s a good thing to have another company competeing with Google and Apple... It´s good for us as customers because cometition keeps improving technology! 

And I have to say that I´m impressed how good Cortana actually works... It´s Microsoft after all ;-)

WP has better privacy than Android. That's a big one for me. I don't need Google creeping around my life in order to sell me shit.

Cortana can answer followup questions, just like google now. Siri is incapable at this point to do that. I'd say it is a great start.

This is the main thing giving me pause.  I currently have a moto x developer edition but am really considering the lumia icon.  Everything about the icon is better than the moto x except for the assistant (in my opinion).  From what I've seen, you have to hit a button to get the assistant on windows phone.  All I have to do is speak and I can do whatever on moto x.  This might not seem a big deal but when you're driving and need to make a call or text, it's quite huge.

 

Edit... This was in reply to Turmoe's comment

I had a question, what are the effects if I change my region to US and language too. I am in India so how will that affect my phone post update. Will I also get the nokia CYAN even after updating to this?

Changing to US will trouble you when you'll be buying apps from the store. I supoose it should, but, be trouble-free for apps that are free. There are not many troubles apart from this. And Yes, whenever Nokia releases their firmware update, we'll get it just like a regular update.

Not really. I'm from and currently (still) live on Indonesia. When I set my region to US, I still can buy apps using paypal on US region (discounted IM+ was one of my purchase using paypal). Only testing on US region though. I never test paypal to other region so I can't give a comment about paypal availability. But it did works with US region.

If u change ur region and stuff u will have one problem. For example: you are dialing a number in ur home regions format, but ur phone will call to the US :) happened to me in Germany. Changed my language and region to UK. Was trying to call a mobile and it redirected me to a UK phone :| lets say it was an interesting conversation :) but apart from that u won't really have trouble with changing ur region. Apart from the appstore. Buying stuff will be I us dollars

If you live outside the U.S. and still want to use Cortana, speaking English, and have no problems using the purchase service in the Store do the following: create a PayPal account, associate your Credit Card with it, and then add your PayPal account to your Wallet app. You'll be able to buy apps and pay in your currency.

Note that apps could get its price a little bit higher because of monetary fees. But it shouldn't be that expensive. Also, your C.C. must cover worldwide purchases.

That was a fantastic review! I'm kicking myself for not checking for the update before I left for work (restricted wifi here). Bah! I don't think I can wait till I get home....

Its a bit pants that you cant use Cortana anywhere outside America, obviously due to the fact America is the centre of the Universe. What a Let down.

It is still in beta. Besides,you can still use Cortana outside US,if you've set your phone region and keyboard and language to US and English-United States. It works just fine for me living in Malaysia. Although my name is not being pronounced correctly.

I have a Moto X. One question,...

You actually have to press a button on Windows Phone to get Cortana to work?

With the Moto X, it can be completely touchless.

Lol you're gonna make people angry because of that one superiority. People don't want to hear that here. You're gonna get yelled at more >< lol

-- Sorry if I am mean, I just dislike mean people! --

I have a moto x as well as a lumia icon, touch less control on moto x is better but why would you come here and tell these guys that??? Trying to start a flame war? The fanboys here are rough man...

Pretty much! I also enjoy not having to touch my Moto X to bring up Google Now, but now is the time to celebrate a great feature for WP! My SIM just went into my Lumia 920 to have some play time.

The Moto X has a dedicated low-power core specifically listening for the phrase "OK Google Now." I hope it's a feature that other device manufactureres are able to implement because it works really well.

Cortana is still in BETA!  Many of the features that are still coming have yet to be released.  On newer phones that will be released with WP8.1 (and possibly some of the ones already released (Icon, 930 1020), Cortana will have "voice activation" included like the Moto X in the final full release (non-BETA).

Dan is all rage with videos :D The showdown was clearly WP biased (although acknowledging where there were better results).

I actually liked how Google read out important info. If it's supposed to be a voice assistant then having the important info read out loud is a plus. And it seems G now also integrates with third party apps as well as Cortana, is that true? Can't seem to finde a definite information on that.

You want clarification on whether Google Now I'll integrate with third party apps, correct? Yes, it does. For instance, I can ask my phone for directions and if I have more than one map/nav app it will ask which I prefer to use, and give me the option to use it once or always. Same goes for taking notes, the phone dialer, and many other tasks. It's pretty nice.

Posted via the WPC App for Android!

Cortana is still in BETA, but even in BETA, yes, she can integrate with 3rd party apps.  Currently, she can post to Facebook and a few others, but more apps are coming.  Cortana can also read out information, but currently under BETA, she is somewhat limited.  She will expand her abilities as she grows over time.  FYI, search "Siri vs Cortana" on YouTube and watch some of the videos.  Cortana show herself off VERY well!

"She" will give her cheeky responses only to a limited series of queries, ask her,
"what is the best phone?"
"who's your father?"
"Sing me a song"
"how old are you?"

Hey... Daniel.... Plz help... No Cortana yet!.
I did exactly wot i was supposed to!... Region USA... Language English USA.
Also any one else.... Any luck.??
PS: I from India!

Neh.....this is not the way u do it.....its about language pack that has to be enabled and installed(in case u hvnt). Been thr done that!

Not for now, but from what I understand to the Build, Microsoft is considering this option for the future (maybe with Threshold, i think)

I hope so, and I think is only natural that the feature will eventually be available on Windows Phone, Windows, and Xbox. The noise-level might go up at the office though...

There is one thing that in this review you don't consider: the extensibility.
In Windows Phone is pretty simple to integrate voice commands and functions like Speech-To-Text and Text-To-Speech, you need very few lines of code to support that, and is easy to drive the application with speech when you are inside the app, there is also support to custom SRGS grammar for the semantics (so you can use natural language) for more sofisticated functions but I ignore the potential extensibility for Siri and Android.
This is an important thing becouse thanks to this extensibility the functionalities are not limited to some system tasks, but we can obtain very powerful apps, like to use Whatsapp in the same way you can use the Message app only with voice (the phone read the message to you and you dictate the message to the phone)

Daniel, you missed one test, if Cortana can continue a search like what Joe Belfiore did... e.g. "tell me how long it takes to the first one" in reference to "sushi restaurant" (of previous search) and with comparison between Siri and Google Now. Was keen to know if Cortana can continue "a conversation"... Thanks Dan.

Pretty sure Cortana can do multiple things for one item. For instance, I said give me a list of japanese restaurants nearby. Once that was up, I said navigate to number 5 and it opened up navigation. 

 

Only things that isn't working for me is the witty replies. Cortana just opens up web searches unfortunately.

Thanks Blakey. Does it work on a "third level" question in relation to the second. e.g. Telling Cortana to Navigate to that (for instance, after asking how long will it take to go the first sushi restaurant). I'm not on the developer preview coz I prefer to get the OTA update, thus the question. Thanks.

To answer your question, yes.  Cortana can do third level responses.  Example:  Cortana, locate some Italian restaurants nearby.  "There are 10 Italian restaurants nearby."  How long will it take to walk to the 2nd one?   "It will take approximately 12 minutes" (and she brings up a map).   Navigate me there.   "OK, opening navigation" (and she opens Nokia Drive).

 

Well, you should try 'Direction' search with your internet conncetion off. I doubt others will be able to find anything, except WP 8.1. Let me know what happens.

That picture from the video makes me laugh. Both Apple and Microsoft say: "What can I help you with?", and Google being Google says, "SPEAK NOW!!!!!" lol

once your carrier releases their update it will overwrite this one, so i think your warranty is only void until your carrier pushes this update.

How long is the update? My cogs have been spinning at 1% for almost an hour. Hate to have to do a hard reset just to do an update.

Huh almost hard reset my phone for nothing. I don't know if this work for u guys out there. But I've been changing my region and language several times but can't seems to get Cortana screen after I've manage to update to 8.1. So i just keep tryin. In the end i try this. Go to setting. Select region. Change region to US then language to English US. Restart ur phone. Then go back to setting. Then tap the language just above the region setting. There should be 2 language there. The first is ur preferred language then the second is English US language. Tap and hold the English US language. Pop up menu will appear. Select move up. Restart it phone. After that Cortana should be available. Remember not to change back ur region cos Cortana will disappear if u do that. Have a try.

In addition to changing region and language to USA I had to go specifically into Speech/Voice setting and change that from English(UK) to English(USA) on my Lumia 1520 in Canada

Each phone platform has it's quirks.  Siri doesn't always get an answer back from the internet.  Cortana  is new and I can't comment on that.  Google voice search requires you know the correct wording more than just normal person speak.  That said Google voice search very accurate and fast even in noisy settings.

 

https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/2842392?hl=en

Voice Actions commands

Voice Actions are supported in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese, but certain commands may not be available in each language. Voice Actions Beta are available in select languages.

To see examples of Voice Actions commands on the Google Now screen, say "Ok Google," then "Help." (This feature is currently available in English, French, and German.)

This table also lists some key Voice Actions phrases.

Say
Followed by
Examples

"Open"
App name
"Open Gmail"

"What does my day look like tomorrow?"or "Show me my schedule for the weekend."
 
Say "What does my day look like tomorrow?" to see tomorrow's agenda.

"Create a calendar event"
"Event description" & "day/date" & "time"
"Create a calendar event: Dinner in San Francisco, Saturday at 7:00PM"

"Listen to TV"
Displays TV cards relevant to the TV show that's currently being broadcast
While a TV show is being broadcast, say "Listen to TV"

"Map of"
Address, name, business name, type of business, or other location
"Map of Golden Gate Park, San Francisco."

"Directions to" or
"Navigate to"
Address, name, business name, type of business, or other destination
"Directions to 1299 Colusa Avenue, Berkeley, California" or
"Navigate to Union Square, San Francisco."

"Post to Google+"
What you want posted to Google+
"Post to Google+ I'm going out of town."

"What's this song?"
 
When you hear a song, ask "What's this song?"

"Remind me to"
What you want to be reminded about, and when or where
"Remind me to call John at 6PM."

"Go to"
Search string or URL
"Go to Google.com"

"Send email"
"To" & contact name,
"Subject" & subject text,
"Message" & message text (speak punctuation)
"Send email to Hugh Briss, subject, new shoes, message, I can’t wait to show you my new shoes, period."

"Note to self"
Message text
"Note to self: remember the milk"

"Set alarm"
"Time" or "for" & time, such as "10:45 a.m." or "20 minutes from now," "Label" & name of alarm
"Set alarm for 7:45 p.m., label, switch the laundry"

"Listen to"
Play music in the Google Play Music app by speaking the name of a song, artist, or album
"Listen to: Smells Like Teen Spirit"

"Play some music"
Opens Google Play Music and starts playing an "I'm Feeling Lucky" radio station (only works with All Access)
 

"Call"
The name of one of your contacts
"Call George Smith"

I don't see why it would be any worse than Now or Siri - if anything a bit easier on the battery, as more of the work is done on the device

Been using Cortana since I got the update and to be honest I have noticed a VERY slight increase in battery usage, but that is to be expected when you use your phone more often during the day.  Lets face it, we all gotta play with our new toys, A LOT!  But to give you an idea of how little Cortana actually uses, in my Battery Saver app, my Words With Friends app is using more battery than Cortana is.  I've unplugged my Lumia Icon at 5:30 this morning as as of writing this note at 1:30 p.m. I still have 62% battery after heavy usage.

I thought Cortana would understand the go to cnn.com command, but I do hope Microsoft fixes that.

Yay palm sunday on that iphone! :-)

WPC App for Android- Lenovo IdeaTab A3000

Cortana does, but may use different wording. It doesn't seem to be working for me now, but I had no problems opening sites in the browser last night.

The only thing I hate is the new music app... Its not as fast as before and I know its just a "Dev preview" but I'm a music junkie lol

Cortana was definitely the clear winner here.

 A couple of other winning points not shown on the video:
- People reminders
- Multi-level voice commands (i.e. you can ask one thing, and then continue the conversation)
- A sexier voice and based on an awesome character
- Unlike Google, Cortana's notebook is local (though I think it's still synced across devices)... but from a privacy standpoint she rocks and gives you full control.

Nice reivew, Dan.  I think the one thing you really missed, here, is that Google Now will actually work just like WP when creating a note.  If you install Evernote or Google Keep, then Now will ask you which app you want to use to create the Note.  I have mine set to create new notes with Keep.  Not necessarily something you might know if you're not used to using Android regularly.

If someone has a Maroon 5 song on their 8.1 phone, see if Cortana will play it by saying, "Play Maroon 5".  For some reason, she doesn't know to play them, but other artist no problem.

i am in india and i got cortana on my lumia 1520....i was already using region as US in region settings to enjoy speech services....m happy with wp 8.1 it rocks

Hey Daniel, in all fairness, some tasks require the launching of "voice commands" on Android vs. using Now. Google oddly seperated things between the two. At least, its like that on my fathers Note 2.

You should also review how accurate are the results, because all seem to bring different information, the restaurants, the routes and even the wather.

Cortana is pretty cool. They are still working out some quirks so it will only get better.  These are a few questions that I asked her and got less than pleasurable responses on. Hopefully Microsoft sees this and can work this into the beta.

1)  I asked her to tell me what movies were playing near me, and it was pretty annoying that she only did a web search. Would be nice to get some actual movies at a nearby theater.

2)  It may just be my speech, but I found Cortana wasn't as accurate when using nicknames that I setup.

3)  I asked Cortana for my name, and although I entered it during setup and she pronounced it well, she did a web search instead of telling me my name.

I'll try to keep you guys posted on more as I discover it from use. I'm still excited about the direction Cortana is headed. Not everything is gonna be perfect at launch.

I like Cortana but the navigate doesn't always work correctly.  If you add a place other than work or home, I'm finding it doesn't reconize it as a location you can navigate to.  Also it doesn't seem to search contacts yet for navigation.  To be fair it doesn't always work correctly in google now either.

In taking a note part, Cortana converts "I need to go park the car" to "go park the car", It's more intelligence than two others and it's really like an actual personal assistant reminds you to do that.

While it think Cortana is looking better and better this seemed like an unfair and biased test. Trying to ask the questions that Cortana can handle while i think Google is the clear winner at the moment.

But i am sure in the future Cortana will be packed and giving the fact that it has a "real" name makes it much more interesting than "Google Now". It makes it....human-ish :)

i was watching is well both google now and  cortana works nice, but is certain supeiority in cortana in some stuffs that only siri could do like turn off wi fi and such stuffs,  i had android and google now and   is ok but  just what is annoying is try to learn  commands for make things work that is like annoying, is like robotic the   way of  google now have their commands for do things, and supposed that now should the things be more human friendly so my preference would be for cortana, is not because i do not like google now just  the commands for execute actions are way too elaborated as for  learn  and use in real world   just  i expect from that voice assistant  something more human and  not use specific commands for   the actions like get the time in other city or get the weather because if do not use the proper command just  get no results.

 

i thin k if  cortana  would  be sucessful but that  also should be   with improve the bing search  and also would be more sucessful if  also  the microsoft offices around the world  works togeher for bring  cortana in the languages and ways of how    people in real give orders   is not the same way how the people give orders in spanish from mexico than in spanish from Chile or Spain  and  i think should also give an improvement to  bing search to have the same capabilities  than the version in the USA this is search places or music ID  from search button  and get suggestions  of places around me too  , just i feel that microsoft forgot those countries and just is focused in USA but we also knbow english and read forums on english and also know the featured that are missed in the versions of windows phone  for    other countries , in this aspect google now could do somewhat better but in some items  like music ID and etc  functions too are tied . i am from Chile and is just even   bad that see my nokia lumia 820 without update and already the version of windows phone 8 have certain fetaures which are not there like the described in the post.

Ha ha ha!!! LOL  That was funny!  Siri will NEVER be better than Cortana because Siri gets her information from Bing Search Engine at Microsoft and Wilfrom Alpha.  Cortana has direct connection to Bing Search and has access to areas of Microsoft's servers that Apple doesn't.  Apple can currently do things that Cortana cannot, but only because Cortana is still in BETA.  Her full functions have yet to be released.  Once they are...Siri who?

Cortana does let you open web pages, i tried wpcentral.com and it opens it as well as pureviewclub.com and cnn as long as you have them pinned on your start screen.

I have Cortana, and she will not work. Once in a while maybe. I have gone to settings and turned her off, deleted all dad from the cloud, and she still does work
I have a Lumia 928. Any suggestions?