How to Make Better Use of Siri and Google Search

Since Siri first made its appearance on the iPhone 4S in 2011, Apple has taken great strides in improving its functionality, specifically over the last few months. Though it’s pretty well known that Siri certainly isn’t perfect, you can’t deny its usefulness in certain situations where other voice recognition software just fall short.

Now that Google has updated their already great Google Search app on iOS to include their much praised voice recognition functionality from Android Jelly Bean, I can’t help but be excited about the possibilities of having access to the best of both worlds.

Let’s take a closer look at how to effectively utilize both Siri and Google Search’s voice recognition to help you get things done the right way. Read on for more.

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Taking control of iOS

Since Siri is baked into iOS, its biggest advantage over Google Search is its ability to control iOS-specific functions and hardware triggers. IPhones have an additional option of raising the phone to your ear to call on Siri in situations where the speakers just won’t cut it. You can enable this by going to Settings > General > Siri and enabling Raise to Speak. Below are some examples of basic functions you should know:

  • “Open (app name)”
  • “Read my last text/message/e-mails”
  • “Wake me up at (time)”
  • “E-mail (name) about (subject)”
  • “I need a table for two in (city)”
  • “Remind me to worship Jony Ive every day”
These are just some of the things you can ask Siri to do.

These are just some of the things you can ask Siri to do.

Location Reminders and Navigation

If your device supports GPS, you can also make use of Voice Navigation and Location Reminders. Such commands for location based reminders include:

  • Remind me to feed the dragons when I get home
  • Remind me to call the kids when I get to John’s house
  • Remind me to finish studying for math when I get to school
Siri effortlessly sets up a future meeting into your Reminders.

Siri effortlessly sets up a future meeting into your Reminders.

To set up Location Reminders, you must first go into your Contacts and make sure your contact addresses and relationships are set so Siri can correctly determine where you are or who you’re referring to. When GPS senses that you’re arriving or leaving a location, iOS automagically pulls up the reminder you set earlier that day. Cool, huh?

Wolfram Alpha: Information Overload

One of the most overlooked features of Siri is its deep integration of Wolfram Alpha. Whether you need Wolfram to help you find answers to a math equation you’ve been wrestling with or curious about how to type your name out in binary, Siri’s got your back. Wolfram Alpha’s database is so vast, it would be impossible for me to cover all the possible questions you can ask Siri. For now, here are a handful of useful commands you can start with:

  • “Wolfram, create password”
  • “Wolfram, RGB value for (color)”
  • “Wolfram, show me video games developed by Naughty Dog”
  • “Wolfram, how many calories in a (food)”
  • “Wolfram, what is the salary of a Physicist”
Wolfram Alpha pulls up very detailed results when asked to compare elements.

Wolfram Alpha pulls up very detailed results when asked to compare elements.

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg of the kinds of questions you can ask Wolfram Alpha; go to their examples page to find out more.

Google Search: Warp Speed

In response to Siri, Google has recently released its new and improved Voice Commands on all Android phones running 4.1 Jelly Bean. While it is true that Android has had voice commands well before Siri came about, it lacked many of the advanced features and natural speech recognition. Today, Google has taken Voice Commands to a whole new level with its own app on iOS with much improved accuracy and speed that puts Siri to shame.

Where Google Search really excels at is how fast it is at finding answers to queries in the blink of an eye. Some really useful questions you can ask include:

  • “Show me photos/videos of … “
  • “Show me flight info for …”
  • “How do you say (phrase) in (language)”
  • “Schedule of (team name) games”
  • “How far is (location) from (location)”
Google Search's flight results have great voice feedback.

Google Search’s flight results have great voice feedback.

This is a short list of questions Siri can’t answer or just completely flops trying to find the right response. Google Search’s unique functions on iOS are quite limited compared to what native Android Jelly Bean users get, but what it lacks in functionality, it completely makes up for in speed. It would have been nice to gain more of Jelly Bean’s advanced voice features, but what is included now is still worthwhile.

The Good, the Bad …

Now that we’ve covered some of the basic functions of both applications, we’re now left with how to make use of having the best of both worlds rather than picking one over the other. I found that both Siri and Google Search had a lot of trouble understanding me in places with medium to high ambient noise. In a quiet room, things were much more neck and neck between the two.

Google Search is an absolute delight to use for normal day-to-day searches. I find myself always coming back to it whether or not I’m using its voice features just because of how speedy and polished the app is. Though Google has — understandably — limited the app’s unique voice commands to a bare minimum, the speed in which it pulls down information in comparison to Siri is second-to-none.

What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?

What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?

When it comes to performing tasks specific to controlling your iPad and in-depth, coherent search queries, Siri performs admirably. I’ve been thoroughly impressed at the depth in which Siri works on a very consistent basis. With everything from successfully displaying Reminders exactly when I expect it to, reading back my texts as I drive and incredibly detailed search results, Siri just can’t be beat.

Siri has quite a sense of humor. Try asking her silly questions and tongue twisters!


So it’s come down to this: Use Google Search for fast and accurate results when you need them, but when it comes to getting the most out of your iDevice and much more in-depth answers to your search queries, have Siri come to your rescue. Some may tell you to ditch one for the other, but why not capitalize on both their strengths? Both applications have their shortcomings, but using Siri and Google Search side-by-side can yield very positive results, no matter what you need.

What more would I like to see in Siri? A way to control hardware toggles like Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth by voice would be a great start followed by faster results and offline functionality. For Google’s app, perhaps expanding on more unique functions of Voice Search as well as producing cleaner, more coherent results can make it one of iOS’s best apps of all time.

Feel free to share your tips with us in the comments below! We’d love to know of all the cool things you’re doing with Voice Commands and how you’ve integrated it into your everyday life!