'Siri, why do I hate you so much?'

'Siri, why do I hate you so much?'
Maybe he didn't hold it close enough to his mouth...

You know what I hate about iPhone owners? Siri.

I can't stand them for it. I have this notion that they're all sitting around in bars, screaming into their phone that they want to know what the weather is like (have you looked out the window?), or asking if they have emails from Mum.

They're probably not, as I've never actually seen anyone use Siri in real life. Nobody has. We've all heard the double-plunk of it being fired up, only to be followed by an under-the-breath "balls", and then the sad sound of it being switched off.

But, real or imaginary, you know why I don't like these people? Ask Siri - I'm sure she'll tell you (or he, depending on what country you're in). It's because I really want it, and I can't believe more people aren't desperate for a proper voice recognition app in their phone.

Google, not Now

I'm an Android user at the moment – flitting between the consumers' pet, the Galaxy S4 and the enthusiasts' grail (and TechRadar's best phone in the world), the HTC One like some kind of demented tech-addict yoyo. Both ultra-smooth. Both ultra-capable. Both Android devices.

And yet, both lacking one thing: A decent digital assistant.

A couple of years ago, when Ice Cream Sandwich was all the rage, and Jelly Bean was simply a sweet-tasting pie in the sky, we got whisperings that Google was working on an ultra cool digital assistant that would make Siri look rubbish.

That may have been the case at one time, but right now we're still left wandering around trying to get Google Now to do all the things that it's supposed to do - I've yet to hear of anyone getting relevant flight or sports details, despite their best efforts.

Google's attempt isn't meant to be a Siri challenger. It's what Google calls 'intelligent' and is meant to be different. We all know how the cards system works and that it learns from us as we browse the web or travel between locations.

And yet, it seems to bring up information that isn't relevant to millions of people (like stocks and shares) whilst making it impossible to carry out the simplest of tasks – like play music.

The impossible dream

OK, so I admit it, Android-fans. I have cheated in the past. I'm not wedded to Android and have enjoyed owning and using every iPhone iteration there has been. And this is where I can tell you that Apple wipes the floor with Android.


There is so much to be said for driving and being able to tell your phone to play a particular song and have it just do the damn thing. Siri is brilliant, and while it's a little limited, it does what it's supposed to do better than anything out there. If you've not tried it properly on your iPhone or iPad, at least to see if you can use it more often, you're an idiot.

And don't tell me you look stupid talking to your phone. That's what they were designed for - it's just you being embarrassed because you're unsure about what might happen.

Google Now is supposed to do something similar, but it fails miserably at searching local content when I just want it to play a song I have stored in my memory card. Forums littered with complaints will attest to my frustration.

Samsung tried to convince us that it had solved the problem when it unveiled the Galaxy S3 last year, announcing S-Voice. You'd think it could wipe out third world debt, the way Samsung sold it. Unfortunately, it can barely do the simplest of tasks. Nailed the industry, this has not. It can't even set a timer properly.

Do it yourself?

Theoretically, one of Android's strong points is the fact you can customise it so well. If you don't like the gallery, download a replacement version. Hate the keyboard? No problem, tap away on a third party one that you installed.

But this goes to show how so many people are trying to cash in on the digital PA biz and failing miserably – with dozens of options from Skyvi and Sherpa, to Robin and Jeannie, with Iris and others in between. And all are as bad as each other, with Speaktoit Assistant having the highest success rate, albeit with its own flaws, when ordered to do something.

I don't want witty conversation with a piece of code, I just want the flaming thing to play Bonnie Tyler when it's told to.

Maybe this is something that Google will sort out with Key Lime Pie – but I doubt it. Android's motivation is to drive you towards the internet. Which is why Google Now is brilliant at web searching and not so brilliant at simpler tasks.

Until then, keep shouting at Siri. See if I care. (I do.)

I've reviewed dozens of phones and tablets for TechRadar over the years - each time putting them through their paces in the most unbiased, rigorous way possible.

But as well as being a professional, I have a love/hate relationship with tech, and that's what these columns are all about: the passionate howlings of a true fanboy. Tell me why I'm right, wrong or a hopeless idiot in the comments below or by tweeting @techradar or @phillavelle.