Who’s More Intelligent, Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa?

4 minute read
| Editorial

Let’s talk about AI, or artificial intelligence. Microsoft has Cortana and Google has its Assistant. On your iOS and tvOS devices, we have Siri. If you’re an Amazon fan, Alexa is present in the Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV, and Amazon Tap. All of these are very capable virtual assistants, but Siri and Alexa seem to dominate the artificial intelligence landscape for many of us. Which is more intelligent, though, Siri or Alexa? Let’s take a look at the two and see if we can call the race.

Which AI is smarter, Siri or Alexa?

Image licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0. Credit: NY

First, what do we mean by “more intelligent?”

We can’t really quantify how much information the various forms of AI have at their disposal. The repositories feeding them are too vast. When I ask which is more intelligent, I mean which offers the most capabilities and the best level of accuracy.

AI isn’t of much use if you can’t do anything with it. Furthermore, it needs to grow and adapt to our expanding use of technology. That’s why I consider the breadth of capabilities built into the AI software to be roughly half of what I use to measure the assistant’s intelligence.

Next we have accuracy. If your AI can’t understand you and respond correctly, it won’t be much more than a nuisance. For a virtual assistant to be worth its salt, it needs to quickly comprehend what you’re asking of it. Then it should respond either by performing the requested action(s) or providing the information you’re looking for. Hence the importance of accuracy in measuring the intelligence of the AI.

Alexa and Siri: the early stages

Siri and Alexa are both growing in capabilities day by day. Until the launch of iOS 10, though, Alexa had a very strong lead in this category. Amazon expanded Alexa almost daily with new Skills, which you could enable through the Alexa app on your smartphone. These Skills allowed you to do everything from play games to turn your lights on or off. Integration with third-party apps and hardware has grown exponentially since Amazon first launched the Echo to the general public in June 2015. As of January 2017, Amazon’s Alexa had more than 7,000 Skills available for use.

Amazon Echo in the living room

Siri, on the other hand, launched in iOS 5 on the iPhone 4S in October of 2011. The virtual assistant was integrated into the mobile operating system, but capabilities were somewhat limited. The virtual assistant could help you with built-in Apple iPhone apps and could look up information on Wolfram Alpha and the Web. As far as integrating with third-party apps, though – nope, that wasn’t possible.

So, until recently at least, Alexa had the lead in capabilities. You could simply do much more with Amazon’s smart assistant than you could with Apple’s. Virtually everything Siri was capable of doing, so was Alexa. But Alexa could also do so much more.

Next: Shifting Competition, Accuracy, and Which Is Better

2 Comments Add a comment

  1. Pat Miller

    Siri is dumb as a stump. I know nothing about Alexa, but it’s fairly certain she can be no worse than Siri. One thing is for sure, I do not want Siri driving my car. She has yet to handle dictation properly.

  2. Gary Dauphin

    I can’t speak to which platform is technically more “Intelligent,” but I can’t certainly tell you which one works better in real world situations:

    Alexa.

    While Apple has had years to take Siri out of beta stage and have it both working correctly and helpful, Amazon has already hit that goal with its first product. I have been using Siri since the day it was released in 2011, and we just bought an Echo late last year. Siri works well as long as you articulate your words well, phrase your questions in a specific manner, and ask only for help in a context that it understands. Otherwise, I only have about a 25% success rate of it being helpful.

    Now, Alexa. I have an Echo sitting in my kitchen. I can talk to it in my normal (accented) speaking voice. It can play songs from Amazon’s music library, read me the latest news, play my favorite radio station, and give me the weather (in multiple contexts and multiple question modes).

    I can go across the house into another room. I can yell “Alexa, turn on all the living room lights.” She hears, understands, and obeys with almost never a problem.

    With Alexa, I can but an Echo in the kitchen and a Dot in the upstairs office, and they can both accept and execute any of the commands the other one can. Almost like a mesh AI.

    Try leaving your iPhone in another room and yelling at SIRI to do something useful. Good luck.

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