7 Free Siri Alternatives for Android

Android device owners have a number of voice-controlled personal assistants to choose from. Here are seven that you can chat up to do your bidding.

The release of the iPhone 4S brought the debut of Siri, a personal assistant tool which has quickly attained a pop-culture following. Programs that control the functions of a computer and search the Internet for you through voice commands aren't new. But Apple pitches Siri as doing so in a more conversational way, and the program talks back to you at times with clever responses, especially to absurd questions.

But Android device owners already have had a number of voice-controlled personal assistants, and most are free. In fact, some were originally published prior to the iPhone 4S, others are cashing in on the current popularity of Siri.

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1. EVA / EVAN

This app comes in two versions -- EVA and EVAN. You might assume that one talks in a female voice and the other, male -- nope, you have to install third-party voice packs separately for that. The difference is the image, a woman or a man, to represent the assistant. Each is $8.99, the free versions (EVA Intern and EVAN Intern) come with ad banners.

You can tell EVA / EVAN to manage your calendar, tweet, update Facebook, do Web searches, and more. You essentially have to give it your orders in a fairly straightforward manner. EVA / EVAN couldn't tell me the current outside temperature in my city, but gave me a canned philosophical answer to "what is the meaning of life?"

2. iris

Spell "iris" backwards and you get...not a coincidence because this personal assistant was quickly put together soon after the iPhone 4S launched. How quickly? Within 8 hours, reportedly. It's no equal to Siri at this point, so this is clearly listed as an alpha release, but as of this writing its developers have been updating it frequently.

The direct-voice commands you can give include calling, texting or looking up a person in your contacts, and performing Web searches.

Iris failed to tell me the current outside temperature, and it read off a paragraph summarizing the "meaning of life." It knew who it was when I asked for its name.

3. Jeannie

This personal assistant is stuffed with features that are either useful or trivial. For example, it can translate spoken English into Spanish, set reminder/wake-up alarms for you, tell your horoscope, read a random poem to you, or search for videos of snoring cats (seriously, this is listed in its feature list). As well, you can command it to perform more useful functions such as calling, texting or emailing a person, and doing various searches.

Jeannie told me the current temperature, rambled on about the meaning of life, and knew its name. Smart gal.

4. Skyvi

Like iris, the developers of this personal assistant are blatantly hoping to capitalize on the latest Apple tech phenomenon. They look to be angling Skyvi as the assistant app you use to ask trivia questions, and most of its responses apparently are gleaned from Wolfram Alpha (e.g. the meaning of life? 42). The only practical functionality it has is letting you use your voice to access your Facebook and Twitter accounts -- and it can read aloud tweets of the people you follow, which sounds, literally, as tedious as you might imagine.

Skyvi told me the temperature in my city, and its name, pronouncing it carefully.

5. Speaktoit Assistant

Speaktoit lets you customize the appearance of a comic illustration of a woman or man that's supposed to personify this personal assistant app. (You can change this character's hairstyle, outfit, skin color, etc.) The character's face will animate a little when the program responds to your commands, but it is basically a virtual paper doll -- and has no effect on its functionality.

You can tell Speaktoit to call, text or email a contact; perform common functions with social networking sites; and search for things on the Web.

Speaktoit quickly gave me the outdoor temperature and was, thankfully in my opinion, curt on the Big Question: "The meaning of life is a bit outside my range of expertise. For now." It knew its name.

6. Vlingo Virtual Assistant

This is another personal assistant app that, honestly, works best if you talk to it formally -- bossing it around like a virtual underling. You can tell Vlingo to call, text or email a contact; update your status on Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter; and search for stuff. A few unique features include Vlingo being able to buy movie tickets and book hotel rooms for you.

Vlingo knew itself, gave the same canned meaning-of-life answer that iris. did, yet couldn't tell me what the weather was like outside my window.

7. CLUZEE

Cluzee features standard voice command functions to operate common functions of your phone -- telling it to call, email or text a friend, or perform a Web search, for example. Its developer also thought to throw in other nifty personal services, like a health planner to track your calorie intake and exercise routine, and you can ask Cluzee to get a cab or send flowers.

When I asked Cluzee for the outside temperature, it spoke in extreme detail about the weather (rambling on about the projected highs and lows for the day, wind speed, cloudiness, chance of rain). It cited a long entry from an online encyclopedia when asked about the nature of life. But it had no clue when I asked "What's your name?"

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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