The best voice assistants for 2019
The world of voice assistants is rapidly changing, but the best should recognize and answer your questions clearly, help you to complete tasks, and allow you to access services such as home automation features with ease. To find voice assistants with the most advanced and reliable technology, we consulted industry experts and reports from market analysts such as Voicebot.ai as well as tech sites like CNET and Digital Trends. Most are available as smartphone apps, but we've also pulled out popular devices that feature the voice assistants.
How We Chose the Best Voice Assistant
Whether you need to know the release date of a movie or how many tablespoons are in a stick of butter, a good voice assistant will provide a correct and informative answer. The more advanced and reliable the technology is, the more questions a voice assistant is able to recognize and answer. General requests such as these are one of the leading uses for voice assistants and smart devices, so the best should provide high-quality responses — straightforward answers with additional context or sources when presented with more complex questions.
Aside from general knowledge, voice assistants can complete a large number of tasks. Some of the most common include checking the weather, getting directions, setting up an alarm, or looking up restaurants. But no matter what your request, the best voice assistant should be able to complete the action on the first attempt. We spent hours comparing the results from market researchers and tech sites to find the voice assistants that live up to their promise of convenience.
Similar to phone applications, voice applications allow voice assistants to perform specialized tasks or provide custom services. Granting voice assistants new abilities through applications gives you the ability to enhance what your voice-assistant-enabled device is capable of, whether it involves guiding you through a recipe or donating to a charity.
One of the biggest draws of voice assistant technology is its ability to integrate with home automation devices such as a smart thermostat or home security camera. Voice assistants that have greater compatibility with home automation devices give you more control over the comfort and security of your home — plus the convenience of performing tasks such as turning down the temperature or switching off lights without having to get up.
What we tested:
The 3 Best Voice Assistants
Amazon Alexa - Best for Device Compatibility
Google Assistant - Best for Accurate Responses
Apple Siri - Best for Apple Users
Pros: Intelligence, Smart home support,Easy shopping
Cons: Inaccurate answers, Mobile experience
Why we chose it
Amazon Alexa is highly capable of answering general questions and performing tasks such as providing a news briefing or calendar reminder. The voice assistant recently gained a Follow-up Mode that allows you to give multiple commands to Alexa. Simply give your follow-up command after your first and Alexa will respond without having to be woken up or reactivated. More importantly, these conversational capabilities show that Alexa is keeping pace in the quickly evolving world of voice assistant technology.
Smart home support
Out of all the voice assistants we compared, Amazon Alexa had the greatest amount of compatibility with other smart home devices such as Philips Hue lights and the Ring doorbell camera. Granted, Google Assistant is catching up, but Alexa still leads the pack when it comes to the number of options you have for automating your home — an important feature if you want voice control over the smart home devices you choose.
Most voice assistants will help you complete general tasks, but Alexa’s connection to Amazon offers the most seamless shopping experience. You’ll need an Amazon Prime membership to shop, but the service makes it easy to place, cancel, and track orders. You can even ask Alexa if Amazon is offering any exclusive deals for easy savings if your hands are full, making it a useful companion in the home.
Points to consider
A recent study by SEO and digital marketing firm Stone Temple revealed that Amazon Alexa has a slight tendency to answer questions incorrectly or not provide a relevant answer. At times, it might take a few attempts until you get the answer you seek. However, it is important to note that this is also due to the fact that Alexa now answers a much larger range of questions — the likelihood of an inaccurate responses increases with the number of prompts. Lee Mallon, founder of voice and mobile application company Rarely Impossible, explained that while useful, “voice assistant technology is still in the early stages and requires a learning curve.” It takes a little practice to learn how to phrase voice commands to get consistent and effective responses.
Unlike its leading competitors Google Assistant and Siri, Alexa is not pre-installed into mobile phones. You can still use the voice assistant by downloading the Amazon Alexa app, but it isn’t as seamless as simply activating Google Assistant or Siri by voice.
Pros: Intelligence and accuracy, Advancing quickly, Google compatibility
Cons: Device compatibility
Why we chose it
Intelligence and accuracy
When it comes to answering questions, Google Assistant takes the crown. During the test of more than 4,000 questions led by Stone Temple, Google Assistant consistently outperformed other industry leaders including Alexa, Siri, and Cortana when recognizing and responding to questions correctly. In addition, if you have a Google Home speaker, Google Assistant can understand two commands at the same time, which is a step above Amazon Alexa’s Follow-Up Mode. Want to check the weather and switch on your TV? Simply ask and Google Assistant will do both.
Google Assistant falls behind Alexa when it comes to smart device compatibility, but the voice assistant is rapidly catching up. In 2018 Google launched routines — a feature identical to Amazon Alexa’s routines — allowing you to string multiple actions together using a single command. For example, say “Hey Google, good morning” and your assistant will turn on the lights, tell you the weather, and stream music. Google Assistants are also now compatible with everything from refrigerators to third-party smart displays and can understand commands made in pairings of languages, which is important in bilingual households. Continued compatibility and language advancements are a good sign that Google Assistant won’t be an outdated choice anytime soon.
Unsurprisingly, Google Assistant has better compatibility with Google brands. When asking questions, your assistant will look for the answer on Google — the most popular search engine in the world. Alexa, on the other hand, uses Bing. Additionally, even though Alexa allows you to stream services like Netflix and Prime Video with Amazon’s Fire TV streaming device, you won’t be able to easily stream YouTube. The rivalry between Google and Amazon means YouTube isn’t available on Alexa or video-compatible devices like Fire TV or the Echo Show. If you're one of the billions of people who like to stream via YouTube, that absence may be a major consideration.
Points to consider
Although Google Assistant is quickly gaining compatibility with popular home automation services and smart-devices such as the Vivint security hub, Alexa is the industry leader when it comes to voice assistant integration. For reference, Google Assistant pairs with more than 5,000 devices, while Amazon Alexa pairs with more than 20,000. For those who want greater flexibility when automating their home, Alexa is the better option.
Pros: Language support; HomeKit compatibility; Apple integration
Cons: Limited voice applications: Device versatility
Why we chose it
When choosing a voice assistant, it makes sense to consider the technological ecosystem of your home or the brands and devices you use. For those who are loyal to the Apple ecosystem, opting for Siri-enabled products can lead to a more streamlined tech experience. Apple’s products excel at leveraging each other’s strengths — iPads, HomeKit devices, and the HomePod smart speaker are specifically designed to work better together.
Siri works with smart devices that are compatible with HomeKit, Apple’s home automation service. The amount of integrations is a bit limited, but Apple regulates what is available to ensure the products are effective and easy to use. Activating an automation feature is as simple as giving a regular command, which stands in contrast to specialized activation words required by Alexa and Google Assistant. Better still, if you have a HomePod, any HomeKit products you already have set up will integrate with the speaker on their own during setup.
Siri’s main advantage over competitors is the ability to understand multiple languages. The voice assistant currently understands 20 languages, compared to Alexa’s three and Google Assistant’s four. It’s important to recognize that Siri only supports English when using the Apple HomePod smart speaker, but her multilingual capabilities on the iPhone make her a strong option for those who speak more than one language or those who speak a language outside of Alexa or Google Assistant’s limited options.
Points to consider
Limited voice applications
The biggest drawback of Siri is that it doesn't have many voice applications. The tight focus on the Apple ecosystem means popular services like Spotify or Pandora aren’t accessible through Siri. For those loyal to Apple, having an iTunes account and skipping other music services isn’t an issue. But for those who enjoy third-party services, a more flexible voice assistant is the better bet.
While Siri will allow you to control basic home automation features through HomeKit devices, other devices with the voice assistant aren’t quite as versatile. For example, the HomePod smart speaker won’t allow you to add events to your calendar through Siri and cannot identify different voices. For those with Apple products there’s no reason not to use Siri, but for those who want more versatile voice assistant devices for their kitchen or living room, Alexa and Google Assistant devices are the way to go.
How to Find the Right Voice Assistant for You
Remember that voice assistants are still developing
Voice assistants are evolving quickly, but they’re still in the early stages of development. Adam Fingerman, Chief Experience Officer and cofounder of ArcTouch explained that, at the moment, “voice assistants are best for simple and quick answers or tasks. They are undeniably useful but at the kindergarten level in terms of potential uses.” In other words, voice assistants aren’t yet able to complete exceedingly complex tasks or respond correctly to every request. But they’re still capable of adding convenience in the day-to-day.
Stay up to date with advancements
As mentioned before, the field of artificial intelligence and voice assistant technology is evolving quickly due to fierce competition. That means new services and features for voice assistants like the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are constantly under development — they’re heading to Toyota cars, smart glasses, and even toilets. Knowing what advancements are on the way will help you keep track of your voice assistant’s capabilities. This increasing potential also means it isn’t yet possible to evaluate voice assistants based off all the functions they might perform. Our review focuses on the key features that provide the best voice assistant experience as of now, and we’ll update this page as advancements release.
Choose the voice assistant that best suit your needs
Most voice assistants perform similar tasks, but some excel when it comes to specific use cases. For example, those who shop with Amazon Prime frequently will benefit from using Alexa. Those who enjoy streaming videos or music through YouTube should opt for Google Assistant. In addition, you can always mix and match depending on the situation, such as using Google Assistant or Siri on your phone while using Alexa at home. We’ve highlighted the key strengths that will affect most people’s experiences, but choosing the option that best matches your specific lifestyle and needs is always the best bet.
Voice assistant FAQ
What about other voice assistants like Cortana and Bixby?
While Cortana scores high for response accuracy in the Stone Temple study, the voice assistant isn’t quite versatile enough for a recommendation. Cortana has been limited to Windows PCs and the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker, which has caused it to fall behind both Google and Amazon in terms of hardware — there aren’t many devices that support the voice assistant. At the moment, other voice assistants offer a better experience for day-to-day use. However, Amazon and Microsoft integrated their voice assistants, and Lee Mallon revealed that Cortana has potential for business use, so Cortana shouldn’t be completely ignored. As for other voice assistants such as Samsung’s Bixby and Spotify’s unnamed voice assistant, they are either too specialized (Bixby is best for controlling Samsung Galaxy phones) or not yet released.
Will voice assistants affect my privacy?
A voice assistant’s reliance on voice recognition and recording technology can lead to understandable privacy concerns. But experts agree that these fears, while rational, aren’t necessary. Adam Fingerman explained that “voice assistants are technically always listening for their wake-word, but they do not record until activated. They need the recording to process the request in the Cloud [a network of servers], but they are not always listening to everything.” In addition, recordings are sent over an encrypted connection. Of course, you can always delete recordings by visiting your voice assistant’s settings or mute your voice assistant tech. That said, you will need to unmute or reactivate your voice assistant device the next time you want to use it.
What is the future of voice assistants?
Current market trends suggest that voice assistant technology will continue to gain popularity and adoption. The Voicebot.ai study on consumer adoption for smart speakers revealed that around 20% of the U.S. population has access to smart speakers today, which is up from less than one percent just two years ago. In addition, the study reveals that consumer adoption of voice assistant technology is consistently exceeding industry expectations. The best evidence probably comes from 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where voice assistant technology such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant were a major theme. Put simply, voice assistant technology is a large focus of the world’s tech giants and will soon be available in everything from cars to earbuds.