SAN FRANCISCO – Siri may be feeling a little job insecurity. The sometimes droll assistant that answers questions and helps people manage their lives on Apple’s iPhone and iPad is facing competition from an up-and-coming rival made by Google.
The duel began Monday with the release of a free iPhone and iPad app that features Google Now, a technology that performs many of the same functions as Siri.
It’s the first time that Google Now has been available on smartphones and tablet computers that aren’t running on the latest version of Google’s Android software. The technology, which debuted nine months ago, is being included in an upgrade to Google’s search application for iOS, the Apple Inc. software that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It’s up to each user to decide whether to activate Google Now within the redesigned Google Search app, which is available through Apple’s App Store.
Siri tried to dismiss the competitive threat. When asked for an opinion about Google Now, Siri responded: If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather Google later.
Mike Allton, a St. Charles, Mo., resident who has owned an iPhone for four years, could hardly wait to check out Google Now, even if Siri might interpret it as a betrayal.
Siri is looking a little green with envy, Allton, 36, said with a laugh after he had installed Google’s new app. I love Apple products, but I like to see the competition because it probably will lead to even more improvements. I believe this technology is going to be even more deeply ingrained in our lives a few years from now.
Other iPhone users – even those who have grown fond of Siri – welcomed Google Now’s arrival to iOS in mostly enthusiastic and sometimes amusing remarks posted on Twitter and Google Plus. One person joked that Google Now is so helpful that the technology prompted him to wash his hands after using the bathroom. The biggest gripe was about the possibility of Google Now’s location-tracking features draining a device’s battery more quickly.
Google Now’s invasion of Siri’s turf marks Google Inc.’s latest attempt to lure iPhone and iPad users away from a service that Apple built into its own devices.
Siri is billed by Apple as an intelligent feature. Since the technology’s release in October 2011, Apple has made it a centerpiece of marketing campaigns that depict Siri and its automated female voice as an endearing and occasionally even pithy companion.
Google believes its Siri counterpart is smarter because Google Now is designed to learn about a user’s preferences and then provide helpful information before it’s even asked to do so. The technology draws upon information that Google gleans from search requests other interactions with the company’s other services. Knowing a person’s location also helps Google Now serve up helpful information without being asked.