Apple Siri Proactive vs Google Now on Tap

Probably the biggest news coming out of Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) last week was the widely anticipated announcement that Apple Music will soon be launching to take on Spotify. Other news included plans to upgrade Siri and add real-time directions to Apple Maps as Apple scrambles to play catch up with Google.

While Apple got the jump on Google and Microsoft a few years back when it launched Siri, its voice activated assistant for mobile devices, both Google and Microsoft’s offerings (Google Now & Microsoft Cortana) have since surpassed Siri in functionality. Using Siri currently is a pretty underwhelming experience with poor voice recognition performance compared to Google – at least that’s our experience here in NZ.

The enhanced version of Siri (“Siri Proactive”) to be released later this year with IOS9 will proactively deliver context-sensitive information based on an iPhone or iPad user’s location, time and historical behaviour. In otherwords, it will anticipate the information a user requires without them necessarily having to search for it.

Google certainly aren’t standing still and late last month announced “Google Now on Tap”, the next iteration of Google Now. This will be a core component in the ‘Android M’ mobile OS being released later this year and some see it as a game changer.

Google Now on Tap provides very impressive enhancements to predictive context sensitive search functionality that, until recently, was only in the realm of science fiction (think Star Trek). Irrespective of what app an Android user is using, simply pressing the home button automatically presents contextually relevant information based on either text or data in the app or in response to a question the user asks. Check out this video to get an idea…

If you’re interested in seeing how Siri Proactive and Google Now on Tap compare check out this feature comparison table by CNET.

Why should you care?

For these types of services to function they need to know what’s on your screen or what you’re listening to or watching. And for many that invasion of privacy is likely to be a major concern.

In answer, Google makes the point it won’t look over your shoulder until you specifically allow it to by pressing the home button of your Android device. They state they’re developing a method for marking sensitive information (such as bank account details) so that these can’t be used with Now On Tap. Google also says that data used for Now On Tap will immediately be discarded and no history retained. In addition Now On Tap will be a service users can opt-out of. Whether this allay’s users’ concerns about loss of privacy remains to be seen.

Meanwhile Apple are making their approach to user privacy a key differentiator.

Earlier this month Apple CEO Tim Cook made a thinly veiled attack on Google, Facebook and Twitter in a speech highly critical of companies that fund their business models by monetizing users’ data.

“Some of the most prominent and successful companies (in Silicon Valley) have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.” 

The difference in how Apple handles users data compared to Google was emphasised during the demonstrations of IOS 9 last week. According to Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering,  iOS 9 doesn’t collect your emails or contacts in the cloud. All of the processing is done “on device and it stays on device, under your control. If we do need to perform a look up on your behalf, it’s anonymous. You are in control.”


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About the Author Jeremy Templer & Mark Sceats

Jeremy and Mark are two of the partners behind SureFire Search. Despite their deceptively youthful appearances, both have worked in search marketing for many years. To put that in context, Google didn't even exist when Jeremy started.