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Siri finally exits beta; you could also use Google Voice Search

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Two years after launching, it appears Siri has finally exited beta mode.

The Apple voice assistant's beta label was removed from the company's website in preparation for its next update, which comes Wednesday as part of the iOS 7 software release. 9to5Mac reports all references to Siri being in beta were dropped late last week.

As you may recall, Siri was a bit of a mess when it was launched in 2011.

Apple unveiled the feature and marketed it like crazy, raising expectations for the voice assistant to levels Siri couldn't possibly reach at the time. Siri's capabilities were limited at launch, it worked in only a handful of languages, and it had technical issues that made it unusable at times. 

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But since 2011, Apple has continued adding more features to the voice assistant and improved its functionality. For example, a year after it launched, Apple made it possible for Siri to give users information about sports as well as post directly to Twitter and Facebook. Users could also tell Siri to launch apps on their devices.

And in iOS 7, Siri has been improved again. In the upcoming update, users will be able to choose from two different Siri voices, it will now pull information from Wikipedia and it will now be able to search through tweets.

But while Siri is much improved, more useful and out of beta, it is no longer the only voice assistant you could use on your iPhone and iPad.

That's because since the Apple voice assistant first launched, Google Voice Search has also arrived on the iPhone and iPad, and it is a worthy Siri rival.

Google Voice Search isn't directly integrated to the operating system of your device the way Siri is, so you can't tell it to launch an app, call a friend or send a text message. But it is a great way to get information.

Google Voice Search ties directly into Google's Knowledge Graph, which is what Google uses to display those helpful information sidebars you see these days when you search on your computer for certain things, such as a person or place.

Google Voice Search displays that information, reads it out loud to you and does it quickly. And it does a better job with some questions than Siri can.

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For example, when I asked Siri how tall Yao Ming is, she couldn't process the Chinese basketball player's name correctly and ultimately couldn't answer the question. But Google Voice Search quickly told me he was 7 feet 6 inches tall.

The same happened when I asked Siri the names of the Spice Girls. It said it couldn't find anything for my question; Google Voice Search pulled up all five of their names and pictures.

To Siri's credit, at least she understood me when I asked "what is the weather like in L.A.?"; Google Voice Search required that I say "Los Angeles" or else it couldn't compute.

Another thing to like about Google Voice Search is that it sounds a lot less robotic than Siri, which is one thing many users dislike about the Apple voice assistant (although Apple is improving that in iOS 7).

So if you don't like Siri or you can't get the Apple voice assistant to get you the information you need, you can launch the Google app and try it out. Google Voice Search isn't a full replacement for Siri, but it may be worth using both voice assistants in tandem.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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