Do you use Alexa, Assistant, Cortana or Siri?

by Volker Weber


The first thing I do on Windows is to set the language to English and the locale to Germany. This throws off Cortana, because nobody at Microsoft assumed that Germans would like English as their first language. I never use Siri on my Mac or Google Assistant on Android. I have played with Alexa, but she appears rather stupid. I use Siri to set alarms or timers on my Apple Watch, and I use Siri Dictation on the iPhone to spare me from thumb typing. I wish it would know when I am speaking German and when I am speaking English without me switching the language first.

The maturity of voice assistants is at about the same level as the Apple Newton was understanding your handwriting. So it does not matter to me at all how long Sonos needs to ship Alexa on Sonos. I expect severe disappointment when people start actually using it, especially when asking for English music with a German locale.

What about you?


Nach eine bisschen Rumspielen immer zu Anfang: Keine Cortana, kein Google Assistant, keine Siri. Für Alexa habe ich noch nicht mal irgendwelche Hardware (auch keine in Planung bisher).

Thomas Cloer, 2017-09-01 15:26

Google Assistant (Home): Regulate my smart home gadgets.

Apple Siri (iPhone and Watch): All other/mobile tasks like notes, reminders and iMessage and also smart home.

Oliver Schwuchow, 2017-09-01 15:30

I use Siri for identifying music (shazam) and setting timers. I find it too limited for any other tasks or don't see the (time) benefit. Siri dictation is very powerful though! I use that a lot for longer messages / emails on iPhone. Never used Siri on the iMac. Not even once.

Axel Borschbach, 2017-09-01 16:00

We use our Echo's with Spotify all of the time and rarely does it play the wrong artist or song. It works pretty dang great.

Bruce Elgort, 2017-09-01 16:09

Anyone used the GBoard voice dictation for voice typing (iOS and Android)? How does that compare to the others? Especially with German? I believe it can auto-switch between English and German through detection.

Ananya Gupta, 2017-09-01 16:17

The dictation function of Siri works surprisingly (for me) well. For everything else it does not work for me.

Oliver Stör, 2017-09-01 16:18

Bruce, it gets more complicated if you ask for something not in your language. Try asking Alexa to play "comptine d`un autre été l`apres midi". That is a pretty long sequence so it should be easy to understand. Or ask it to play this:

Volker Weber, 2017-09-01 16:23

Alles mal ausprobiert, alles zu unreif für den täglichen Gebrauch. Mit Alexa die Heizung rauf oder runter drehen, ist so witzig wie nutzlos, funktioniert aber gut. Ich benutze dann lieber gewohnte Schnittstellen, statt mich mit dem anderen Zeug rumzuärgern. Allerdings muss man sagen, dass das ganze Zeug schon deutlich besser geworden ist. Vielleicht beim nächsten Telefon mal wieder testen.

Kai Schmalenbach, 2017-09-01 17:31

Benutze gelegentlich Google Assistant auf meinem Nexus 5X. Language to English, locale to Indonesia. Ansatzweise nett und das war's dann auch schon. Musik laesst sich mit Ansage starten aber nicht wieder stoppen. Useless. Meine Familie belaechelt mich, haha. "Okay Google!"

Juergen Heinrich, 2017-09-01 18:11

Original Echo Alexa, setup as music playing device in a friends restaurants kitchen, hands free which is great in a professional kitchen, and they can have it play their music by asking. They also enjoy daily jokes and they play Jeopardy on it everyday.

I have Google Home for controlling my lights in my house, I don't use it for music as I built my own Sonos type devices for each room

I'm looking into enabling those with Google Home at the moment. I also use Google home now and again for translating phrases I might hear. I have Google home between my kitchen and living room, and the only other thing I really use it for is setting timers when I'm cooking.

I never use Siri, and I've never really used it.

Carl Tyler, 2017-09-01 18:12

Well, the kids are always asking Alexa to tell them jokes…

I have used it for timers and turning on/off my smart lights. More recently I have also started adding items to my online grocery order*:

I’m looking forward to Sonos/Alexa integration, I think I’ll use it quite a lot to start/stop music, pick radio stations, play the Frozen soundtrack for the millionth time, etc.

[*Yes, I work at Ocado]

Kieren Johnson, 2017-09-01 18:12

None. I cannot see any benefit and it looks and feels weird. Just for fun I sometimes set the alarm on my phone via the BB assistant. It works surprisingly well but apart from feeling weird when speaking aloud to a machine I cannot see any upside in doing so.

Jochen Kattoll, 2017-09-01 18:15

My Macs are all setup the same: language english, locale german. Which also confuses some other apps (Numbers, i'm looking at you). So i don't use Siri or Cortana or anything else like that.

My iPhone is different, that's completely on german, but i had to change it to language english recently for the bohemian rhapsody easter egg in Siri to try it out.

Dirk Steins, 2017-09-01 20:31

Use Google Assistant occasionally (all settings are UK), works fairly well. Used it a couple of times while jogging, when a question popped into my head and I didn't want to stop to be able to type. Some worked well (e.g. what weekday a certain date fell on), others were pretty useless (unfortunately can't remember what they were). Have also used it when I had to change destination while driving and couldn't easily stop, that worked quite well as far as I recall. Very occasionally use it for short dictation, some works well, some doesn't.

Armin Grewe, 2017-09-01 20:44

PS: Inspired by Kieren just tried the "tell me a joke" thing with Google Assistant.

What happened when James Blunt fell into a pencil sharpener? He became James Sharp.


Armin Grewe, 2017-09-01 20:48

Sicherlich wird das Ganze noch lustiger bei den Spaniern und Latinos. Sie sprechen englisch aus wie sie spanisch sprechen. Da wird aus Moby akutsisch der Movie :-)

thorsten ebers, 2017-09-01 21:49

Using Alexa to switch some lights, close some windows (via Sonoff Skill and skilled wiring ;-)) and also using her to play music or radio on Sonos (via Bluetooth Gateway on a Play:5 for now).

Using Google on the phone to navigate somewhere, using it on the (Wear) watch to dictate messages sometimes.

Cortana - since going the Android way, not at all. Siri would be on the iPad, not used regularly.

After starting using it all this year, I am really surprised how unable they are to understand intentions / context. Alexa and Google both, IMO.

Example: Ich: Alexa, erzähl mir einen Witz - Alexa erzählt - Ich: Der war gut - Alexa bedankt sich - Ich: Erzähl mir noch einen - Alexa: Ich weiß nicht, was Du willst.

Hubert Stettner, 2017-09-01 22:11

Never (except by mistake).

Colin Williams, 2017-09-02 00:15

I have my devices with English UI language. The pronunciation of non-English names is more a source of entertainment than productivity gains. Similarly, the voice recognition usually fails, unless I remember the funny pronunciation.

Ragnar Schierholz, 2017-09-02 08:36

Cortana: no. Nevertheless I must use Win10 (on MacBook Pro) for three Windows only apps.
Alexa, Echo etc.: not in my house. Maybe never ?
Siri: Tried a little bit on MacBook Pro, that's all.
Siri on iPhone 7 plus: yes, more or less regularly - for starting phone calls, for dictating quick thoughts on Notes, for searching unknown songs, for setting timer and alarm clock, asking for a weather report. Sometime for searching any kind of information on the web, for starting apps on the iPhone.

Stephan Perthes, 2017-09-02 14:58

Alexa : We use it for Light , music and information on various things about California and Norway as my kids live there. My 10 year old ask about spelling in English and grammar. Soon I will have it control my light , temperature and Curtains in my cabin.

palmi Lord, 2017-09-02 20:53

Mit der Kommunikationsschnittstelle Sprache kann ich überhaupt nichts anfangen. Zu Hause liegt das Handy weit weg, im Auto höre ich Musik. Im Büro spielt das Handy nur als Mail-Previewer überhaupt eine Rolle.

Aber offensichtlich verpasse ich gerade wieder einen Trend:

"alarms or timers on my Apple Watch, and I use Siri Dictation
smart home gadgets
identifying music
Alexa die Heizung rauf oder runter drehen
music by asking
They also enjoy daily jokes and they play Jeopardy on it everyday.
my online grocery order
Alexa, erzähl mir einen Witz
asking for a weather report"

Da hab ich ganz andere Gadgets auf Lager:

Ich wohne in einem 200 Jahre alten Haus, muss den Gasbrenner im Wohnzimmer von Hand regeln, habe immerhin Zentralschalter für das Licht, 100 m zum Markt 2 * die Woche und für den Wetterbericht 16 Schwalbennester am Haus. Und als Schwabe gibt es sowieso Verständigungsprobleme ...

Hubertus Amann, 2017-09-02 21:56

Hm, ist die Kommunikationsschnittstelle Sprache nicht die aelteste der Welt? Ist noch gar nicht so lange her dass fast keiner lesen konnte und praktisch alle Informationen verbal uebermittelt wurden....

Armin Grewe, 2017-09-03 00:30

Alexa - have it wired to Hue (8 light bulbs with 4 zones), two switches (fan and something else) and Nest. Have a lot of skills of news and use it for timers and google stuff. also use it to tell me about my calendar that day and tasks (connected to Office365). I use this quite often and it all works very well. Very rarely is it wrong. All I want from Sonos support for Alexa is the ability to mute, adjust volume, and do basic stuff (Alexa, play ESPN Radio on SiriusXM on Sonos bathroom) or something like that.

Siri - mostly dictation and setting alarms. I use this far less than Alexa

Cortana - I use Cortana all day - but rarely with voice. But Cortana is hooked to my Office365 account, my Dynamics 365 CRM account, and LinkedIn. Cortana is part of my daily workflow. I hope to see more Cortana Alexa integration.

John Head, 2017-09-03 03:39

I switched to use the Transcribe function on the Apple watch to quickly answer messages.

I built a Sonos speech control using a raspberry running Homekit and a Sonos HTTP API.
That works quite nice for things like "switch off all musik"
As Homekit interprets these programs as switch, you need to say: "Sonos aus einschalten"

With that setup I also can use Sonos as notification speaker for my Homematic programs. Played around with that but also not really made it out of the beta phase.

Regarding Alexa, I'm bit hesitant to install so many microphones in my home.

Patrick Bohr, 2017-09-03 11:49

I regularly try if any of them have improved. Siri and Cortana are just frustratingly incapable.
Alexa (via Echo Dot) is hearing pretty good but understanding terribly. Even more annoying are 3rd party skills which need their "trigger word" everytime: "Power on Projector WITH HARMONY". If there is only one way Alexa can do things she should just default to it.
Alexa and Sonsos were long awaited for. Without spoilers: I just use it to resume playback or switch radio stations.

Google's Assistant however is really great. Especially if it comes to Android Auto: like you cannot mispronounce "Benedict Cumberbatch" (really, try it!) I have a 99% success rate in starting Navigation (just use the name you'd expect on Google Maps without knowing any part of the address). For music it is like 90% which is still better than browsing collections manually while driving.
Maybe it's my voice or the amount of context data Google does know about but language does hardly matter. If I want to listen to top tracks from Muse I can either say "Spiele Musik von Muhsä" (like a German would pronounce it) or "Mjuus" (therefore mixed languages) and Google would still give me the correct result (which autostarts if you use Android Auto).

Ralf ter Veer, 2017-09-04 12:29

I use Google Assistant for web search with easy answers (How far from here is Venice?, Height of Eiffel Tower, When was Napoleon born?, ...). Nothing could be faster.

Thilo Hamberger, 2017-09-04 13:51

Dear vowe,
Deine Auswertung, Dein Artikel, Deine Meinung zu diesem Thema (hier? In der c't?, in ... ?) wäre interessant. Soweit das an Hand relativ weniger, dazu recht unterschiedlicher Meinungen und Erfahrungen möglich ist.

Stephan Perthes, 2017-09-05 10:50

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.


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