War of Words: Google’s Android sharpens speech-recognition in duel with Apple’s iPhone

August 12, 2010

Google fired the latest salvo in the smartphone war with Apple on Thursday, jazzing up the allure of its Android phones with new voice recognition capabilities.

Google’s new Voice Actions feature lets users of Android phones quickly send text messages, play online music or find a restaurant’s phone number by barking commands into the handset.

SAMSUNG-PHONES/Anyone who’s ever been behind the wheel on a long drive, or running through an airport carrying multiple bags, will recognize the appeal of firing off a quick missive by saying something like “send text to Marlo, I’m running ten minutes late,” instead of stopping to type everything out.

Google wants to maintain Android’s reputation for voice recognition – the company said on Thursday that 25 percent of US users of Android 2.0 phones currently use voice recognition to conduct Web searches – as Apple hints at its interest in bringing speech features to the iPhone.

In April Apple bought Siri, which makes an app that allows iPhone users to do things like find restaurant address or movie listings online with voice commands.

The competition between Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android has heated up during the past year, with the two companies racing to add unique features to differentiate their respective products.

Apple has sold more than three million iPhone 4 phones – which feature special video calling technology dubbed FaceTime – since releasing the product in late June.

But Google said recently that its hardware partners like Motorola and HTC are now selling more than 200,000 Android devices a day. And in the second quarter, Android became the No.1 smartphone operating system in the United States by market share according to research firm Gartner.

In addition to the new voice capabilities Google also released a new product on Thursday called Chrome to Phone, that allows a person to transfer Web information – say directions to a hotel – from their PC browser to their Android phone.

One interesting side note on the speech recognition front: attentive readers will recall Reuters’ stunning discovery in January that Google’s voice recognition technology automatically censored curses and other offensive words on the Nexus One phone. Well, on the sideline of Google’s event announcing the new mobile features on Thursday, Google senior software engineer Mike LeBeau informed us that newer versions of Android now let users turn off the auto-censorship feature. So go ahead and cuss to your heart’s content.

One comment

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I am deaf and do not use a telephone (Android or otherwise) and hence have never ‘texted’. If Google can really sent text to an Android phone from another phone then I might be tempted to by one. The question I have is whether many texts can be sent. The talker (who I would be looking at, say, in a restaurant) would be using an Android phone and I would also have one and be reading what they say. Is that really possible? The quality does not need to be too high simply better than my 10% recognition rate.

Posted by DGDanforth | Report as abusive