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November 2, 2012

Google Takes on Siri With Free Search App for Apple Devices

There’s a new search app in town for Apple devices courtesy of Google.

The search engine giant is offering a free voice search app for the iPhone and iPad — a direct challenge to Apple’s virtual voice-driven assistant, Siri.

The new app, which is also for Android devices, is about convenience and finding answers effortlessly, says Kenneth Bongort, a Google search engineer, in a blog post.

“Fast and accurate voice recognition technology enables Google to understand exactly what you’re saying,” the post reads. “Getting an answer is as simple as tapping on the microphone icon and asking a question like, ‘Is United Airlines flight 318 on time?’ Your words appear as you speak, you get your answer immediately and — if it’s short and quick, like the status and departure time of your flight — Google tells you the answer aloud.”

The system, which is powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph, aids the app in relating a search with its intended meaning. You can watch the app in action here.

Bongort says Knowledge Graph allows its users to ask and receive answers to “an increasingly wide variety of questions.”

According to the blog, the following are a few of the questions that Google can answer:

• “What does Yankee Stadium look like?” Google will show you hundreds of pictures instantly.

• “Play me a trailer of the upcoming James Bond movie.” The trailer starts playing immediately right within Google Search.

• “When does daylight savings time end?” The answer will appear above the search results, so you can set your clock without having to click on a link.

• “Who’s in the cast of The Office?” See a complete cast list and find out who made you crack up last night.

Despite, the early rave reviews Google’s new app has received for being lightening fast and accurate, some critics say it not only cannot carry on a conversation like Siri can, but it lacks the system-wide functionality as well. Siri critics, however, say the Apple app is slower and less able to answer complex questions than Google’s version.

Although Siri has received its fair share of criticism, Apple has promised its virtual voice-driven assistant will continue to improve as it becomes more and more integrated into iOS.

So which app is better? It comes down to user preference.