While looking through the Galaxy S4 for our upcoming review, we noticed something odd. Samsung’s latest flagship contains not one but two separate voice command-based virtual assistants. We’re talking about the Korean manufacturer’s own S Voice and Mountain View’s Google Now. Two services sharing one device seems odd to us.
That’s why we took both of them out for a spin to see which was the more robust virtual assistant. We put them through a barrage of questions and tests to see which could do more in a more efficient manner. The results might surprise you. Here’s the contest between S Voice and Google Now.
The first task was to find a contact from our address book. We wanted to see if either service could pull up a friend. We tried it with three different people and got some interesting results.
S Voice: Found the contact in question two out of three times. In the second test, it pulled up the city of Charlotte rather than the person. Opened the contact page for that person when it did work.
Google Now: There is no equivalent function in Google Now.
Advantage: S Voice
Next we wanted to check out some movie trivia and see when Inception was released. Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film is one of our favorite action flicks. You can’t beat those sonorous booms.
S Voice: Correctly returned the film’s release date, plus a page of extra information like director and cast.
Google Now: Also correctly returned the release date, along with a card of further information.
Keeping with the theme of movie trivia, we asked the two assistants what movie won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2008. We were looking for No Country for Old Men, an oddball film that, in our opinion, was much better than the book.
S Voice: Got it on the first try and gave us the title of the Coen brothers’ film.
Google Now: Didn’t give an answer but opted to return a page of search results.
Advantage: S Voice
For the last test, we gave both of them an easy question. Think of this as a way to make sure that they were both working and not completely useless. We asked for the current time in Chicago, a major American city in another time zone.
S Voice: Correctly gave the time in Chicago.
Google Now: Also gave the correct time.
Obviously, these tests are not comprehensive. We only picked a few questions and did not subject either to the kind of rigorous scrutiny that you’d need for a better examination.
We liked S Voice’s integration with Wolfram Alpha, the knowledge database favored by Siri as well. It’s packed full of useful information which Google doesn’t always have, like the winner of Best Picture in 2008.
The cheat sheet button in the bottom right corner of the screen is a godsend as well. It’s easy to forget what commands are possible with S Voice.
The downside of S Voice is that it prefers integration with other Samsung S apps over Google services. This is to be expected. Of course Sammy is going to push its own apps like S Memo.
However, as heavy Google service users, we prefer Google Now’s seamless integration with other apps like Keep and Calendar.
For example, taking a note in S Voice adds it to S Memo. Taking a note in Google Now adds a voice recording of the note and a transcription to Keep. The latter service is more robust and user-friendly.
Google Now’s focus on preemptive search also seems more helpful than S Voice simply sitting there, waiting for a command. Most of the common searches are already provided for you in Now.
Lastly, Google Now has a great deal more flexibility. There are more commands and functions for Mountain View’s assistant than S Voice. Just look at the feature list for Now compared to the short S Voice cheat sheet.
Although S Voice is a powerful voice assistant with a lot of uses, Google Now is the more powerful service of the two. We’d recommend it over Samsung’s service, especially to those invested in Google services like we are.