Some significant Android regret

2016-05-31 18.54.13-1

I’m going to admit something pretty difficult now. It’s something that’s been bothering me for a couple of weeks now, so this post will serve as a kind of confession.

really regret selling my Nexus 6P.

You hear that? I’m sitting here, listening to a podcast on my iPhone 7 Plus and I’m pining after a phone that Google doesn’t even sell anymore. W the actual F?

If I’m honest, it’s less about the Nexus and more about Android. I miss Android. I miss Google Now and how it understood virtually every single verbal instruction I issued. It worked. The interface was so much more usable than previous iterations of Android and the first I’d used that didn’t feel like an experiment.

So what the hell is wrong with my new iPhone 7 Plus then? Absolutely nothing. It has an amazing screen, a superb camera and is lightning fast. That said, Siri still sucks. Especially when compared to Google Now (or Google Assistant, as it’s now called on Google’s new Pixel phones).

I have a three year old Nexus 7 tablet, and it does a better job of understanding my verbal instructions than my brand new iPhone. That’s not right. And yes, I’ve tried may different combinations of speaking to the iPhone and even when it does understand me, its responses are very limited compared to Google.

I challenged it to tell me the names of some capital cities from around the world.

United Kingdom? London! France? Paris! Ireland? Mega-long pause and then “here are some articles I found for you on the web about ‘what is the capital of Ireland'”. Seeing as Apple makes all its billions in Ireland (the magic of accounting), I’d have thought Siri would know what its capital is…

I know this is probably some form of sacrilege, but I felt slightly disappointed when Google announced its new Pixel phones. Disappointed in that I wanted one so badly. Yes, they’re pretty much as expensive as a new iPhone, but with the power of Google built right in. The Google app on iOS is severely limited compared to its Android equivalent.

But, here I am. An iPhone, an Apple Watch, an iPad and two Apple computers. They’re not going anywhere any time soon. But I have to admit that in a year, I’ll be seriously considering walking away from iOS and moving to Android. It will of course depend on the state of Google’s handsets (I’m not interested in anything from Samsung – no matter how cold it gets in London each winter, I don’t need a mobile that sets itself on fire to keep me warm!), but given how I’m using my phone, the leap to another platform would be more like crossing the street.

The vast majority of my apps are cross platform. I use Google Photos over Apple’s photo service. I don’t use Apple’s Podcasts app. I use Google for my contacts, calendars and email. I use Spotify, not Apple Music. I could go on, but you get the picture…

As for the Apple Watch, it’s a thing of beauty. But I got almost as much use out of the considerably cheaper and more ‘fun’ Pebble watch. Its battery lasted for days and days and it didn’t pretty much everything I needed from a smartwatch.

So why the hell have I once again found myself knee-deep in Apple devices?

The impact of Apple’s marketing. Honestly. I was sucked in, hook, line and sinker. I don’t think I was mis-sold anything (apart from Siri, which really doesn’t behave as advertised), I just managed to convince myself that I had to go with the upgrades.

Yes, the old tech was sold and it took the sting out of my new purchases. Plus, my phone is a business expense, so didn’t come out of my personal pocket. But really, it’s about the principle of the thing. I didn’t need that upgrade. I simply lusted after it.

And if I had my time over again? I’d go for one of the new Pebble watches and a Pixel XL.

Boom. There you go. My confession for the week. And I feel better for sharing it.

In the year ahead, I think we’re going to see an arm’s race in terms of verbal interfaces with technology – or ‘speakables’. Apple has Siri, Google as its Google Assistant and Amazon has the Echo. So far, it looks like Google and Amazon are light-years ahead of Apple in this space. Earlier this week. Nilay Patel and Walt Mossberg discussed this very topic on their excellent podcast and Siri was found to be lacking in several areas.

I really enjoyed speaking to Google Now on my Nexus 6P – setting timers, setting reminders, adding appointments to my calendar, searching the net. Attempting the same with Siri is simply a chore and I’ve all but stopped doing it.

I think what it boils down to is this: my iOS devices mostly work as I need them to. I get stuff done and they’re there when I need them. They’re slick and beautiful.

But they’re not fun to use.

I miss Android.

  1. I think your experiences might be different from others. I’ve found Siri has improved immeasurably! I’m dictating this now on my iPhone 6s Plus and it’s doing it 100% correctly. I only have to disguise any Brummie tones in my voice – and yes it has just transcribed Brummie correctly! I’ve also just asked Siri what is the capital of Ireland and she came back straightaway with Dublin complete with current population and a map!

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    1. That’s quite the difference alright. I’ll have to give it another go. Could it just be my phone?! More research required, the my poor quality undergraduate essays always concluded…

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    2. Okay… I’ve just tested it four times and it worked once. Didn’t give me a map but instead some key information about Dublin. Maybe it needs practice…

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      1. “WHERE is the capital of Ireland?” works every time for me “WHAT is the capital of Ireland?” caused Siri a few problems!

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  2. Siri can STILL suck my dick.

    I’ve tried and tried. It doesn’t understand a flipping thing I say. NOTHING. Crazy words like ‘dad’ or ‘sister.’

    When I use Google voice search in Chrome for iPhone (which I’ve switched to 100% of the time), it has misunderstood me once in months and even then, I repeated more clearly and it nailed it.

    My only droid device is the now-aged tab4 but I’m not wishing for a droid phone so much as wishing they’d KILL Siri and use Google’s voice detection.

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  3. It could just be me, but I believe that when I switch Siri to British Male he understands my dulcet Irish tones with far greater reliability than when on the default American Female.

    As to the *functionality* of Siri compared to Google Now, I only have the iOS Google app for comparison. Maybe I’m just used to Siri, or maybe the iOS implementation of OK Google *is* severely restricted, but I’ve just never been that impressed. I use Siri for reading and sending texts while driving, making notes while driving, turning lights on and off at home, checking my calendar (Apple), setting timers, getting directions, dictation, really everything. I never find myself hampered by Siri’s lack of functionality, just comprehension. And comprehension is less and less a problem these days, it seems.

    I keep hearing about how much better Google Now is, and maybe if I moved my PIM to Google that might be so. But for now I think Siri is moving in the right direction, just torturously slowly.

    And I knew you’d be hankering back to Google when I saw the Pixel! 😉

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    1. I may need to have a look at the Siri settings again, but it’s not often the case that Siri doesn’t understand me – you can see from the on-screen transcription that it’s getting what I say – it’s just the lack of usable or detailed responses.

      Having used both Siri and Google Now, I can say confidently that Google has the functionality hard-wired into their system, while Siri appears just a little bit semi-detached still. It *is* improving, but as you say, very slowly.

      As I’m not about to switch teams (again), I guess I’ll have to get used to it. But I’m not likely to become a fan of Siri any time soon…

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  4. […] previously found Siri to be unreliable and far less competent and consistently accurate than Google assistant. But the […]

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