Google Assistant was just released for iOS today. You may know it as the AI-powered assistant that makes Google Home tick, or perhaps you've heard from one of many review sites about how much better it is than Siri. Well, before you run off to the App Store to install Google Assistant, let me save you some time: It sucks.
To be clear, I'm not talking about Google Assistant in general here. I have a Pixel XL and a Google Home, and the Google Assistant experience on both of these devices is fantastic. For iPhone, though, it's a hot mess — and there's no way in hell iOS users will be switching from Siri anytime soon.
We tried asking Google Assistant to play music from a band called Low, and the results were almost comical. The Assistant interpreted the band's name as Cuello, Halo, Lowe's, Lo, Blow, Love, and so on, but never once did it hear "Low," no matter how hard we tried to enunciate.
Okay, so maybe it's a problem with the microphone. Or maybe I slur my words a bit too much. Let's open Siri and see what happens. First try:
This is just one example, but it's typical. At least on the iPhone, Siri is clearly better at recognizing what you're saying. What's strange is that we tried using Google Assistant on an iPhone and a Pixel XL simultaneously, and the Pixel's Assistant was spot-on every time, while the iPhone version kept stumbling like this.
We can't talk about virtual assistants on iOS without Siri being a huge part of the conversation, so let's compare how you launch the two assistants.
With Siri, you simply long-press your home button and start talking. Alternatively, you can enable a setting that lets you say "Hey Siri" from within any app, and with an iPhone 6S or newer device, you can even do this when the screen is off.
With Google Assistant, you also have three options, but they're all pretty clunky. The first option is to open the app from your home screen, then tap the microphone button before you speak. Alternatively, you can set up the provided widget, but that will still require at least one swipe and a tap. The third requires you to ask Siri to "open up Assistant," which just feels wrong. Ease of use is an important aspect here, and Google Assistant clearly loses.
If you ask Google Assistant to make a phone call, everything looks like it's going smoothly. But when it comes time to actually initiate the phone call, you have to tap the call button. The same thing happens when you ask it to send a text message or an email, so you're left staring at a draft that you still have to manually send.
What's the point of a voice-based assistant if you still have to interact with your device using your fingers? Honestly, it would be a lot easier to just dial a contact manually or use the Dictation feature on your keyboard, and you wouldn't look like such a geek while you were doing it.
We can't really blame Google for these next issues, but they should certainly be mentioned anyway. There are a bunch of basic tasks that you would expect from a virtual assistant that the iOS version of Google Assistant simply can't perform.
You can't set alarms, which is the biggest issue here in my opinion. But you also can't adjust any system settings, such as turning Wi-Fi on or disabling Bluetooth. In short, Google Assistant can't do anything with your phone itself.
If you compare Siri's features to the Google Assistant app on iOS, it's really no contest. Siri is simply better in every regard. Just after using Google Assistant for about an hour, we found plenty more annoyances that wouldn't be an issue at all with Siri:
- Does not work well with Apple Music.
- Can't set location-based reminders (doesn't work with Apple Reminders).
- Works primarily with Google Apps, with few exceptions (Music, Phone, Messages).
- It doesn't know what the hell FaceTime is.
- Examples in Explore tab mention Google Home so much that it feels like an ad.
- Can't tell me what song is playing.
- Only does a Google search when asking to reserve a table at a restaurant.
- Can only launch certain Google apps.
I'm sure we'll find more as we keep exploring the app. Really, this first release feels like a half-baked effort from Google, and it pales in comparison to the experience you would get with Google Assistant on Android or Google Home. But hey, if you want to check out the dumpster fire for yourself, you can grab Google Assistant from the App Store here — just know that you'll likely be uninstalling it shortly thereafter.