So you want to try out Siri, the magical personal voice assitant, but don’t want to shell out the cash for the Apple iPhone 4S. Whatever is a gadget lover to do? Enter Evi, a standalone app available for iOS and Android devices that provides similar (and in some cases, more) functionality.
Evi got off to a rocky start when it was first released a few weeks ago. The servers were flooded with information requests after the app was featured on various tech sites, and users were greeted with lots of errors and “try again later” messages, ourselves included. We decided to revisit the app now that the initial buzz has calmed and the servers aren’t melting.
Evi is powered by Nuance, the same technology behind Siri, so the voice recognition is about on par – speak clearly to your phone and it’ll mostly transcribe what you’re trying to say. As for actual functionality, it does offer up some goodies that Siri is unable to, at least here in the UK.
The greatest benefit here is being able to ask about or find local businesses and services. Asking for the nearest Tube station gave us the three closest stations, as well as map functionality indicating where they were relative to our location. If you bother Siri with the same query, you’ll be greeted with the all too familiar message of not being able to find such things unless you’re in the United States.
You can also ask some more random questions. We asked how old Clint Eastwood was, and what movies Bill Murray has starred in, with both being answered promptly. Asking how long it would take us to walk to Edinburgh returned the correct distance, but Evi reminded us that the time couldn’t be calculated unless it knew how fast we were walking. Fair enough.
There are also the typical unit conversions, although we feel Siri has a slight edge here thanks to Wolfram Alpha integration. Evi returned the same results, but Siri offered up additional conversions for context, as well as various comparisons. The sense of humour injected into both services is also a little different. Compare Evi’s answer to Siri’s to get a better idea.
Siri also edges out Evi in that it has much tighter integration with iOS, should you want to schedule meetings, check on a contact’s birthday, or transcribe an email. You can’t do any of those with Evi.
Having said that, Evi does win hands down in price. You can find it on the App Store for just 69p, which is a fair saving over the large price you pay on an iPhone 4S, unlocked or on contract. Android users aren’t left out in the cold either, where Evi is available on the Market for absolutely free.
If you want to see what you’ve been missing with Siri, than Evi is a perfectly acceptable companion. Just don’t expect the same level of integration and sophistication that you would get with Siri and iOS 5.