Smartphone users have been going mad over the past few months, since the launch of Siri on iPhone made the activity of talking to your phone a desirable option. Not content with using it to talk to others, iPhone owners were all of a sudden showing off the speech recognition abilities of their phones, backed up with results from the Wolfram Alpha search engine.
Google was soon quick to follow with a powerful revision of its Google voice search system, but what options do the growing number of Windows Phone owners have? Can they talk to their phones in the same way, or are they simply limited to using fingers? Fortunately, native and third party voice search options are available for Windows Phone, but you should be aware of one all-important piece of information.
Making Sure Your Voice Search Tool WorksThis isn’t a rule exclusive to Windows Phone owners – all platforms apply. It’s a simple rule that often gets overlooked, resulting in puzzled and somewhat dejected faces from time to time.
Voice search is limited to Internet connectivity. While this might not be a problem in towns and cities where 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi are in plentiful supply, you might find that performance issues with voice recognition and the displaying of results can impact performance considerably.
Certainly with Microsoft Tellme, the voice recognition requires a connection to the Internet for the software to understand the words used; this can impact the more “local” aspects of the system such as application launching and contact search. As a result, always check connectivity before speaking!
Microsoft TellmeFirst and foremost is the Microsoft Tellme system, a tool that allows the user to find information and control the phone with just a few words. Looking for a local pizza restaurant? Simply say “pizza” and Microsoft Tellme – powered by Bing – will find results based your current location (as long as GPS is enabled).
Meanwhile if you’re driving and want to call your sister using your hands-free car kit, you can say “Call sister” (or whatever name you have her saved as!) and Tellme will dial her number. If you have multiple numbers saved you will be able to choose which one to use.
Tellme can also be used to launch apps on your Windows Phone and all utterances should be preceded by holding the Start button.
This is an effective and popular system, impressive for a first release but missing the conversational fun that is available with Siri on the iPhone.
Ask ZiggyAttempting to fill the gaps of the Tellme service is Ask Ziggy, an app for Windows Phones that can be downloaded from the Marketplace.
With a smooth user interface and capable of offering conversation-based search results and problem solving, Ask Ziggy is in ongoing development to ensure that it can provide a serious alternative to Tellme while fulfilling the needs of users looking for a competent Siri alternative on Windows Phone.
If you own a WP7 device, you can use Ask Ziggy to find weather results, define words, solve math problems, find local businesses and more. This is currently the closest app you will find to Siri for Windows Phones and the best thing about it is it’s completely free!
ConclusionUltimately, there is some way to go for the Windows Phone platform to be able to compete with the functionality of Siri beyond the updates that Microsoft makes to the native Tellme system.
Note that Ask Ziggy and any other third party options that might be released are likely to be little more than works in progress and should therefore be checked regularly but not relied upon. Tellme, on the other hand, is a native option built into the Windows Phone operating system. As a result of this you can expect pretty good results from it, particularly when used as a hands-free aid while driving.
Let us know in the comments what your impressions are of TellMe and Ask Ziggy. What could be done to improve them do you think?