The battle of the servants sees veteran Siri facing the newly appointed Google Assistant.
We know Google likes to keep the name of its services simple (Mail, Drive, Photos), but for a personal assistant they surely could've come up with something a little more personal, no? Anyway, you won't be having all that intimate of a relationship with your phone's AI, and you certainly don't want to go all Theodore and Samantha with it (you know, the movie 'Her').
And for all the personality Siri used to have, she (well...) sure has become a lot less eager to entertain. The internet's full of screenshots with funny exchanges, some of them actually real, but that seems to be a thing of the past.
Ask Siri to tell you a joke and she'd decline, insist and she will too. Remind her of her funnier self of old and she'd dismiss it with a simple 'if you say so'. Now that we think about it, we might actually need to go out more.
The Google Assistant is a bit more willing to try and make you laugh, but it's mostly dad jokes and those are certainly an acquired taste.
Enough blabbering about the useless stuff, let's see if the assistants are actually good for anything. They'll both set up an alarm for you, that's for sure, and they'll cancel it willingly as well, only you'd have to spell it out for them.
They'll respond to general queries, replace the calculator for you and convert units and currencies - though clearly they have different sources for the latter, be advised. Isn't it just ironic though, that when you ask them both how much is an iPhone 7 in the UK, the Assistant will give you a link straight to the Apple UK site, while Siri will pull news articles from third parties?
We did the mandatory search for cat photos as well, only the two phones weren't on a level field, as we had only actually taken photos of cats with the iPhone. Siri did, indeed, show us cat photos from the gallery first and we had to specifically ask her to search on the internet for more. From what we gather Assistant will also prioritize and show you your own photos on a given subject before searching online.
Then again, we asked both for landscape photos, of which there are plenty on both devices and their linked accounts, yet the iPhone listed a thousand gallery photos with random stuff on them, while the Pixel only pulled images from the web. Oh, well.
They both excel at telling you the weather, and it's a conversation they can both sustain - how about somewhere else, switch to Fahrenheit, give forecast for different periods - you don't need to specifically watch your language for every follow-up question.
As we mentioned in the Pixel review, Assistant may not be exceptional at keeping a proper conversation on restaurants and cuisine. That said, if you keep it simple, they'll both give you directions to a place they found in the previous step. Only if Siri asks you to confirm your location, and you just say 'yes' she'd forget what you were talking about. So much for conversation.
Siri doesn't seem to be a fan of YouTube, by the way. Tell Assistant to play a particular band on YouTube, and so it will. Tell Siri, and she'd list Bing search results. Which are YouTube videos, obviously. Tap on one and it'll open in a browser window, instead of the app. What is that about?
From our observations, Assistant tends to be more detailed, giving you more information than you've asked for. Which can't hurt. Siri, on the other hand is more to the point, while the way it presents its answers is undoubtedly superior from a design standpoint.
In the end, however, while both Siri and Google Assistant can be counted on for speech recognition (with the Pixel having an upper hand with non-native speakers), it's what they do with your words that is hit and miss. And if they give you what you want half the time, or even 80% of the time, you're so much better off actually typing your question in a search bar or navigating to the menu yourself - after all the phone is in your hand, most likely.
Personal assistant winner: Google Assistant, only just. It's a little better at understanding non-native speakers, and is somewhat more conversational. Siri wins points for presentation, but we needed a few double takes on occasion.