Iris App: Siri's Dysfunctional Twin Sister

This voice-powered assistant app is less functional than other, similar offerings.

Iris is a direct competitor to Siri, the voice assistant that Apple introduced with the iPhone 4S. Currently in alpha status, Iris is far from being ready for serious use. In theory you can use Iris to send text messages, dial your contacts, perform Web searches, play music, check the weather, look up recipes, update your Twitter status, or find videos--but Iris still has a ways to go if it is to compete with Apple's virtual assistant.

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Unlike Siri, Iris requires you to speak your queries in a specific syntax. For example, to update your Twitter status, you have to say, "Update my Twitter status," followed by whatever words you want to tweet. Unfortunately, you may need to repeat yourself multiple times, because the app often misinterprets your words as gibberish.

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Although Iris can perform location-based searches, I didn't always get good results. Iris understood how to pass a "Find me a coffee shop" request over to the Maps app, but it answered my "Find a camera store nearby" request with an invitation to try Mozilla Open Directory--an interesting project, certainly, but not a relevant result.

Iris has a frustrating tendency to reply "I don't know" to a lot of questions, while other times the app gives even more puzzling answers. For example, my "Find a bicycle shop nearby" request generated the response, "Is that from?"

Iris seems to work best as a way to call phone numbers from your contacts list. Speak "Call" followed by the person's name, and Iris will present a short list of contacts that most closely match the name you provided. This feature seems to work faster than the search function within the Contacts app, so if you have a lot of contacts and make plenty of phone calls, Iris may be able to save you some time.

Everything else about the app seems to be useless: Features work occasionally, but most of the time they don't. Overall, if you want to get things done efficiently and reliably, don't bother with Iris. If you have your heart set on using a functional voice-powered app, try Dragon Go or Speaktoit Assistant.

Follow Brent W. Hopkins on Twitter, or read more articles by Brent W. Hopkins.

This story, "Iris App: Siri's Dysfunctional Twin Sister" was originally published by PCWorld.

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