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Siri vs. Alexa is hilarious to people outside the U.S.

Siri Remote on Apple TV
Siri Remote on Apple TV

Imagine if, on a weekly basis, you saw or heard "Xinghua" being compared to Siri. But "Xinghua" was available only in China and only to people who spoke Mandarin. How meaningful would those comparisons really be to you in the U.S.? That's about as meaningful as headlines comparing Amazon's virtual assistant, Alexa to Apple's Siri are to the vast majority of the world's population.

The one vs. the many

Right now Alexa is solving only for people in America who speak English. That's an incredibly small subset of what Siri, which just recently added Hebrew and several other languages in several other reasons, solves for.

What's more, Alexa only exists in the living room at home. Siri is in the living room on Apple TV, but also in your hands with iPad, in your pocket with iPhone, and on your wrist with Apple Watch.

If I ask Alexa to turn off my lights, well, nothing happens because I'm in Canada and Alexa doesn't officially exist here. If I ask Siri, the lights go out. And if I ask Siri while I'm out of the house but have my phone with me., chances are they'll go out as well. (Networking is hard.)

If I speak French to Alexa, it might as well not exist even in America. If speak French to Siri, it answers just fine. Now, I can even speak French and ask for an English movie, and Siri on Apple TV can figure out not only the language I'm speaking, but that I'm changing languages mid-sentence, and handle it appropriately.

I can also travel with Siri, and use the assistant I'm familiar with, on the devices I have with me, in many places around the world. It's not stuck at home. In a U.S. home. With constant power. And multiple beamforming mics.

No contest

Alexa certainly is good and useful technology, and I applaud Amazon for taking the lead in home hubs and providing a way for other services to hook into it. I hope Apple does both those things in the near future.

Natural language, sequential inference, and voice interface are incredibly enabling technologies, including and especially when it comes to accessibility and inclusivity. We need them everywhere.

That's why, for now, there's no comparison between Alexa and Siri. Or rather, any comparison is laughably U.S.-centric. For the rest of the world, it's not that Alexa isn't even close. It's that Alexa isn't even in the game.

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

54 Comments
  • Siri vs OK Google. No contest Google walks all over Siri. I hate to say but Cortana is overall better then Siri. As far as Alexa, there is nothing Google, Facebook or Microsoft have to worry about. Other than shopping data they don't have much. That's useful in some scenarios but not as useful as data Google, Facebook and Microsoft has. So you are right comparing Alexa to Siri is the correct one because they are both bad.
  • Blah blah blah user data, the only thing Google fanboys have. I have HomeKit on Siri, Google has nothing on that, so does Microsoft.
  • Blah blah blah baa baa iPhone fanboy. I love me some imore coment section. :-) Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Apple has no other chance than collect data from there customers.to make there service better they have no other choice.
  • I don't agree. But I am sure it takes the time. They will find a way.
  • So because you can't use it the two can't be compared??? That seems silly.
  • Well I'm with him that Alexa is only US and definitely not lighting up the world. But I find it funny that he thinks alexa is even competition. Google is already blowing off everyone else, Cortana is great as well. Rene should be worried about them not Alexa.
  • It's not lighting up the world, sure. But that's no reason to dismiss it as a possible competitor. I feel this is just him searching for a reason to dismiss Apples competition.
  • I'm with you on that
  • It kind of is a reason to dismiss it. If a majority of people can't use it, it might as well not exist to them.
  • Considering when the iPhone first released it was available to a minority rather than the world's majority, I'd argue otherwise.
  • And when the iPhone was first released, it could also be shrugged off by anyone who couldn't access it.
  • Imo, all of these people doing these comparisons should just say this is for Americans only.
    Additionally, Cortana needs to take lessons from Siri about being available in many places.
  • Can Siri proof read your articles? ~TheRealFixxxer
  • Proofread is one word, glass houses.
  • Right now, pretty much anything is better than Siri. Google Now is superior by a wide margin. I hate Microsoft but even Cortana is better than Siri now. Apple really needs to step up with Siri. I'll have to check out Alexa before I comment on whether or not she's better than Siri. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm not sure why I'm responding to FUD, but contrary to what the author believes Alexa is available worldwide. https://developer.amazon.com/appsandservices/solutions/alexa/alexa-voice...
  • Just an addendum. Siri is worlds better with worldwide support than Alexa. For example; some Alexa services just plain don't work when you are outside the US (those services aren't even documented so it's a bit of a crap shoot of what will and will not work).
  • No Amazon echo in the uk.
  • Amazon Echo != Alexa
  • No, you are correct. However, at this time, it is the only way you can access Alexa. You can't even access Alexa from the Alexa app.
  • While that's not technically correct as there are 3rd party apps that use Alexa and it works on the Fire TV, it is a fair point that the service is not easily accessible at this point unless you have Amazon hardware and are in the US. It's just that there needs to be a distinction between Alexa and the Echo. They aren't the same thing. Any more than Siri = iPhone. Siri the service is available on devices other than iPhone.
  • Amazon opened Alexa up to any device that uses a microphone and speaker.
  • Yet they don't care enough to allow their Alexa iPhone app to use it.
  • perhaps. but you are the same person who thinks the only way to access Alexa is from the Amazon Echo, meaning your ignorance about Alexa has been firmly established.
  • thank you for pointing out my ignorance. Can you point me to another product that I can access Alexa from? Here is the list I can find.
    *Echo
    *Amazon Fire TV (but not the Fire TV stick) Please don't say the dot or tap, those are just versions of the Echo. I don't see it on their Kindle Fires. Also, please don't point to the API. I want to know what other device, today, I can access Alexa from. Aside from the Echo and current Fire TV, I still don't see any. But if I am wrong, I would like to cease being wrong and find these. Again, not saying they don't exist, just saying, what are they, I don't see anything on Amazon's site. If there are things on Amazon's site, they are doing a poor job marketing them.
  • The two popular devices are the Samsung Smart Hub refrigerator and the Invoxia Trilby. There are about a dozen Alexa enabled apps on the Android play store and a small handful on the Windows App store. I don't see any on the iOS app store (or easily searchable) and have no idea if any are on the Amazon app store. There are currently 36 companies who have committed to making a product with Alexa. No idea if any of those companies will come out with an actual product. The SDK was released just about a year ago, so it's no surprise we are just only seeing products coming out now. I expect we would see similar adoption with the proposed Siri SDK (just look at the slow adoption of HomeKit) Hopefully this will give you an idea of what kind of FUD this article is..
  • Thanks for this. I mean that sincerely. Amazon is doing a poor job highlighting these products, then. On their page, they make no reference to them. And true, look at CarPlay. Takes third parties forever to get on board. Perhaps Siri being on billions of devices already would accelerate the adoption, but who am I kidding?
  • I agree. Amazon is horrible at advertising pretty much anything. I'm hoping Apple introduces a good Siri SDK and companies adopt it quickly.
  • So, as a Canadian, which products can I purchase today that have Alexa?
  • I believe it's only Android phone and tablets as well as Windows 10 computers. Not sure if there are any Alexa apps for iOS.
  • To be frank Siri is a joke in India too I mean half the time it says "I didnt quite get that"
  • That's weird, some Indian guys told me that Indian accent is the most easy to understand accent in the world!
  • Competition is good. New approaches are good. Even if Alexa is limited in some ways, it is also pushing new strengths as well. For that matter, so is Cortana and Google. Claiming that a limited user base some how reduces the value of things like the ability devs have to tie into Alexa is just petty, and missing the big picture that attacking what these 'virtual assistants' can do from many angles will only serve to improve all of them in the long run.
  • hardy har har.
  • I am an all Apple household, have been since the 80's. I have an Echo. It is great as a Bluetooth speaker (sound is pretty impressive). It is great to set timers while I am cooking. It is great to convert measurements while I am in the kitchen. It is great if I need to order some Tide. And she tells a lot of jokes And, for me, that is where the "great" ends. It is good/ok at finding songs. I have it connected to Amazon Prime and iHeart Radio and TuneIn. Still never seems to know what songs I am looking for. More often I get a preview of a song. I never use the news brief. Siri, in my experience, is far superior of the two. Even my kids, who loved the jokes at first, get frustrated with her limitations. Siri, for me in my experience, wins. And to all those "OK Google" evangelists? By now, you should realize how Apple operates. There was a long laundry list of things Android was "far superior" to iOS in. Over the years, with each iOS release, iOS chips away, while Google, et al, need to find a way to catch up to Apple.. I have a feeling this will be the same. Siri is behind, no doubt about it. There is a ton of stuff OK Google can do that I wish Siri would. I do feel that Siri/iOS do far more behind the scenes that bring it closer to OK Google status than people think. But Apple is never in for the short term. They will get there.
  • You say google needs to catch up to Apple but yet you also say google is superior in many ways? I'm confused. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Ok Google is ahead of Apple Siri. Apple is ahead in the complete ecosystem. Google isn't there yet, though they are getting there.
  • I am an all Apple household as well and I am really enjoying the power of the Echo and Alexa. IMHO, Alexa outshines Siri in many different ways, especially the tie-in and ability to learn different "skills". Even with HomeKit and Siri's integration, Alexa's open API allows me to pick and choose from an entire market of home automation solutions and I am not limited to the rather small market of HomeKit compatible devices. For example, my alarm system also serves as a Zwave hub which offers a ton of Home Automation solutions far and above what is offered for homekit. Even if a potential solution is not Zwave compatible, if a manufacturer offers ties into the Alexa API, then it can be added as a skill. I also use Echo to read me my morning news from the sources that I select including Sports, weather, tech, etc. Love using it also to go directly to music and podcast without having to subscribe. What is comes down to, is Alexa and the Echo is more useful and powerful in my home. Siri, even with its current limitations is my mobile assistant and the central hub for my appointments, contacts, and interaction with my mobile devices.
  • Here's the thing. I don't care about the rest of the world. I'm in my US -centric home. To be honest, both are crippled. Siri has Bing which makes it next to useless for search, isn't onboard, and isn't very reliable (in that half the time it simply doesn't work). Amazon's just doesn't do enough and still has problems Siri has. Amazon's is limited but in its current form, a bt speaker, it does what I want it to do well enough. Frankly, you're asking the question who is better but the two teams are terrible.
  • Is Rene the only one who provides his resume before every article? Sent from the iMore App
  • No, this is the case for only certain writers on this site.
  • Good luck using the Siri remote on the new Apple TV in Belgium or the Netherlands. Remember the huge fanfare of voice on the remote? Well.. for BE and NL it's called "Apple TV Remote". Why? because it can't even hack voice. It's not just Amazon that isnt a beacon internationally.
  • And to follow up on my comment - at least Amazon doesn't sell it's stuff when it doesn't work. Apple TV In Belgium or the Netherlands is sold at their APple Stores, for a similar price.
  • "several other languages in several other reasons, solves for." Do you mean several other REGIONS?
  • Really poor argument.
    Hey, the Bentley Bentyaga isn't available in the US yet, but the Toyota RAV4 is. The Toyota is amazing....
  • I think the entire world finds Siri to be hilarious altogether, no matter the presence of Alexa only being U.S.-centric. I'm bracing myself for yet another new boring trend in tech like the watches. This whole AI thing which I'm sure Apple is going to bring to the limelight soon. I couldn't care less about what the rest of the world is able to use as far as these technologies go.
  • Siri might work OK in the US, but here in Belgium it is totally useless. Most integrations that Siri offers do not work here because the services are not used that much. Additionally using Siri trying to play some music is really painful, most of the times it does not understand me. Siri has a problem when you need to combine Dutch with English words or names, which is what we need to do most of the times when playing music.
  • I agree with you david666 - AppleTV '4' in Belgium... doesnt even have SIRI remote!!
  • First they are different markets because even apple has more support in the states. Why Google is better because it collect your data and give you a good service. If apple wants to build a system like Google now they need to collect our data but than I wanna see the people they always big on privacy.maybe all these privacy apple fans buying blackberry or stay with iOS 9.
  • "Hey Siri play acdc on Spotify"
    silence ...
    "Alexa, play acdc on Spotify"
    Music starts ...
    It also turns in my lights and I'm in Canada! Sent from the iMore App
  • That is an excellent point. If you have a 4th gen Apple TV, you know that is where Siri is going. Today I say to my Apple TV "show me Lost" Up comes Netflix with seasons 1-6, iTunes, with seasons 1-6 If I say "show me Agents of SHIELD" it brings up Netflix, seasons 1-2, iTunes, seasons 1-3, Hulu, season 3, ABC, season 3 This is where Siri is going Tell my Echo, play some Prince (an artist I've added songs to my Amazon cloud library) I get "I can not find Prince in Prime Music" I have my iHeartRadio account tied to my Alexa app (though doubt he is there), I have Spotify Premium (finishing out a trial) connected to my Alexa app, and, as stated, have Prince uploaded to my cloud library. I shouldn't have to specify that I want Prince from my cloud library. It should know. It doesn't, yet. But it understands what I am asking for. Sometime I get previews I can buy in Amazon. How helpful.
  • I would tell Alexa to play Prince from my cloud library a number of times. Then tell Alexa just to play Prince. Maybe it remembers? Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • We're way behind the U.S in terms of technology, but thankful for that. It just means were smarter..
    Some like to think its just doe to we in Australia, being "behind the times" but is it really ? Australia doesn't need all of this stuff. not even by half. And even less people in Australia use Siri :)