You over there -- why so Siri-ous? Is it because you've not got Apple's new iPhone 4S with its built-in voice-activated personal assistant? Fear not: we've compiled five of the best alternatives for older iPhones that will have you gleefully barking commands at your subservient handset in no time.
Vlingo is the closest Siri-like voice-recognition experience you're going to get without denting your bank account shelling out for an iPhone 4S. With a gorgeous interface, Vlingo lets you choose from various predefined commands, ranging from finding somewhere on a map to texting or calling a contact. The accuracy of the voice recognition depends heavily on what it is you're searching for.
First we had a go at searching for the nearest Starbucks in London (in a heavy Yorkshire twang, we should add), which Vlingo retrieved like an overexcited Labrador with a tennis ball. We had less success running the same search for a Starbucks in Southwark, with Vlingo fetching us a map locating several hundred coffee houses in Suffolk. Still, for a free app, we were impressed overall.
While it's currently impossible for older iPhones to conduct the iPhone 4S's more complicated internal Siri commands -- such as setting up reminders or creating events -- anything that can be found by typing a request into Google can also be done through voice commands via Google's own app.
As shown in the picture above, the app located the nearest Starbucks without a hitch, so it's well worth checking out what other things Google's search engine can do to use the voice commands to your full advantage. The app also comes with a novel image-recognition system (above left) that tries to match up the snaps you take on the iPhone's camera with Google's own image database.
3. Dragon Dictation
Siri was plainly known as 'Personal Assistant' before it was eventually unveiled under its final name in early October. It was an apt working title, as the final product does indeed perform solid voice-based note-taking duties, just as a real PA would have done back in the day before we enslaved phones for our productivity needs.
We had a lot of fun with the Dragon Dictation app for all the wrong reasons. It's a dedicated note-taking app that records your voice and converts speech into text with sometimes hilarious results.
Our first test was reading out the first thing that caught our attention -- a doggie bag from a nearby fast-food outlet that read "Tortilla Tacos In Transit". What came out, as we've shown in the left-hand picture just above, didn't quite match what we'd just said, although it did sound like a tasty snack of a rather different kind. We wouldn't recommend the app for any professional work, but it's worth giving it a try for some casual note-taking.
4. SpeechTrans Lite
Here's an app for your inner tourist. SpeechTrans Lite is a translation app that records your voice and then translates it into a selection of different languages.
It's made by Nuance -- the same team behind Dragon Dictation. This means the app yields similarly sketchy results, but fares a little better due to the fact that you'll often only have to translate short, concise sentences which, after a few attempts, get picked up and translated instantly without fuss. The additional options to email translations and save past translations makes it a handy and fun little app, and one with some actual practical use.
If you're reading this in the US, you might want to also check out Nuance's positively reviewed app Dragon Go! -- an incredibly Siri-like voice activated personal assistant that can check the weather, fetch local reviews, make reccomendations and more.
5. iPhone Voice Control
As cool as Siri is, the fact is it's just a souped-up version of the already existing iPhone voice-control feature -- something that, before now, most people just saw as that annoying beep you get when you hold down the home button for too long.
It can be used for calling people hands-free, can start FaceTime conversations on the iPhone 4 and can control your music for you. It can list artist names, skip tracks, shuffle playlists and play music similar to the current song playing. Plus, as a bonus, it'll do all of that without developing a bit of an attitude -- unlike someone else we know.