Want Siri on Your Android Phone? Try These Apps

Jeannie

Android virtual assistant apps: Jeannie
Up until about a week ago, this app was called Voice Actions, just like the Google app. To end the confusion, the third-party developer, Pannous, changed the name of its app to Jeannie (it still shows up on my phone as Voice Actions, however, even though I've updated the app). Jeannie is free. Alternatively you can purchase a $3 Voice Actions Plus app with the same capabilities. Pannous says that the Plus version of the app should process your speech more quickly.

Unfortunately, signing up Jeannie as your personal assistant is a bit like hiring a slacker with a poor work ethic. When I asked Jeannie to send a text, for instance, it asked for the recipient's name, but then just switched me to my texting app, without starting the text or adding the name of the recipient. (Jeannie can be a bit passive-aggressive, too. It asked whether I wanted to leave it to go to my texting app. When I said "Okay," it responded "Okay by me, too." Ouch.)

Other things Jeannie did were just mysterious. It set an alarm when I asked it to, and the alarm went off right on schedule, but I couldn't figure out how to turn it off because Jeannie hadn't set it using Android's built-in alarm system. When I asked Jeannie to take a note, it started recording me--but never showed me what it had transcribed. Instead, it simply said "Done," and then told me I could send the note by email "later." It wasn't clear to me how.

One of my tasks involved asking each of the personal assistants to get me Apple's stock price. Many of them fell short in various ways--giving me a general market report, for instance. But Jeannie's response was the most surreal: It searched the Web for images of apples and presented those to me.

Eva Intern

Android virtual assistant apps: Eva Intern
Eva is like a job applicant who seems brilliant in the interview, but who you end up wanting to strangle after a couple days of frustrating collaboration.

Android virtual assistant apps: Evan Intern
Eva is represented by a photo of a brunette who is attractive but (to my eyes anyway) has an underlying air of vapidity. A companion app called Evan gives you the option of ordering a guy around, if you prefer; he looks like a model from the cover of a romance novel. The list of things that Eva/Evan can theoretically do is impressively long: Bulletproof, which designed the app, says that it can create expense reports and journal entries, start applications, post to Facebook, make playlists, and manage contact groups. (Eva Intern is free only for the first 28 days, by the way; after that, you have to pay $9 for the full version.)

Unfortunately, Eva came across as both so dense and so afraid of making a mistake that it couldn't get much done. When I asked the app for Microsoft's stock price, it listed three possible interpretations: "give me microsoft stock price," "give me a microsoft stock price," and "giv me microsoft stock price."

You might imagine that any one of those would be close enough for an intelligent assistant to figure out. But Eva's reaction was "I'm sorry, I heard what you said but I don't know how to interpret it. Please try again."

Eva also had the annoying habit of popping up unsummoned--even when my phone was asleep--to read calendar entries to me. "Hi Ed, I'm reminding you about conference call with Stacey in CR-500 at 5 p.m." Even more annoying was that the app insisted on reading each calendar entry three times. Eva's instructions said that the virtual assistant would be quiet if I asked it to, but the ensuing peace lasted only until my next appointment, when Eva would again implore me three times not to miss the impending meeting. There may be another way to get Eva to shut up, but I never found it. The app's instructions are the longest and wordiest of any mobile app I've seen; and after plowing through them for a while in hopes of solving an immediate problem, I usually lost patience with trying to use them.

Finally, I wrote a calendar entry reminding me to uninstall Eva as soon as I'm done with this story. That may be the only time I'll be glad to hear this virtual assistant's voice.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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