Android Leapfrogs iPhone 4 With Voice Commands

One of Android’s best but possibly least-used features is its amazing voice recognition. Today, Google released Voice Actions, a feature that uses that ability to the fullest. Take notes, write emails, navigate to restaurants–all with your voice.



Google‘s Android and Apple‘s iOS are fundamentally different mobile platforms in tons of ways, but one of the most obvious to users is the difference in software release schedules. Apple’s release schedule is like clockwork: Every summer, once a year, we’ll get one new iPhone and one new version of iOS. Google, on the other hand, squirts out several more minor updates in the same time Apple releases one major update.

That has its pros and cons, like everything else in the Android-iOS war, but one of the pros for Android users is that they’re frequently a step ahead of iPhone users. (One of the cons, of course, is that Android users might not be having enough sex.) Google’s new update today, for example, is the kind of feature we know Apple’s working on, but iPhone users almost certainly won’t see it until next summer.

And is it ever a great feature. Android’s voice recognition is about the best in the smartphone world, but right now it’s limited to the universal search (meaning, basically, web search or call a contact). Apple’s iOS can handle voice commands too, in similarly limited ways–you can call a contact or adjust your music. When Google announced Voice Actions for Android today, it completely blew both the old Android and iOS out of the water.


Voice Actions let you do far more than just search the web or find a contact; now, you can perform tasks as varied as getting turn-by-turn GPS directions, sending email, writing yourself a note for later, and finding and calling a restaurant to make a reservation–all with your voice. Even better, it looks to have the same level of accuracy and ease as it always did. Gizmodo’s video shows how simple it all is.

You don’t have to issue complicated instructions or remember precise phrasing–it’s pretty intuitive. Saying “go to” will indeed take you to this very site. Here are the full list of instructions:

• send text to [contact] [message]

• listen to [artist/song/album]

• call [business]

• call [contact]

• send email to [contact] [message]

• go to [website]

• note to self [note]

• navigate to [location/business name]

• directions to [location/business name]

• map of [location]

The new feature is available for all users of Android 2.2 (which is available on the HTC Evo 4G, Google Nexus One, and Motorola Droid X/Droid/Droid 2) by downloading the Voice Actions app in the Android Market.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in Brooklyn (no link for that one–you’ll have to do the legwork yourself).

About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law