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A Rival For Siri? Evi, New App For Android And IOS

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Siri.com
Siri.com

Siri, Apple's voice-controlled virtual assistant, was one of the biggest tech stories of 2011. But since Siri only runs on the iPhone 4S, many smartphone owners have been left behind. Now a brand new app called Evi is available to bring similar functionality to the Siri-less. The app (which, incidentally, shares its name with Randy Quaid's colorful wife) does not replicate Siri's full feature set, but it may surpass Apple's product in its ability to answer factual questions. But none of this will matter if it doesn't soon fix major problems early adoptors are encountering in its first days.

Evi lacks Siri's integration with the phone's operating system and, as a result, it's missing Siri's most useful features -- forget about using it to send texts or emails, and don't expect to set alarms or reminders.

But early tests by reviewers showed that when it comes to answering the type of questions that settle bar bets, Evi might have Siri beat. For example, TechCrunch asked both assistants who was the U.S. president when Queen Elizabeth II was born. (Answer: Calvin Coolidge.) Siri punted on the question, suggesting a Web search, but Evi did the hard work of determining who Queen Elizabeth II is and when she was born and then compared this information with the corresponding presidential data. In another faceoff, Evi offered multiple apple pie recipies while Siri again suggested a Web search.

If Evi sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. TechCrunch must have done their Evi-Siri faceoffs before the app went live on Monday, because hardly anyone since has been able to get an answer from it. While Evi's makers, Cambridge, England's True Knowledge, have spent the time since release apologizing for servers that can't accommodate the flood of new users, angry reviewers have flocked to the iTunes store and driven down the app's average rating to a mere 1.5 stars out of 5. Many reviewers say the only replies they've gotten to questions asked of Evi were error messages. For my own part, I've had answers to a couple test questions; I now know a gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds and that Carol Channing will be 91 next week, but I could have found out more quickly by using Google or even by phoning a reference librarian.

Sentiment outside of the iTunes store hasn't been much warmer. The iPhone Savior Blog says, "Based on feedback by most, Evi is one letter away from being branded as Siri's evil twin and then burned at the virtual stake."

Evi is free for Android users, who may as well download it, if they're curious and patient. But the iPhone version costs $1; Apple customers might want to wait to buy it until they hear that they'll get more for their money than error messages and apologies. Siri, Apple's voice-controlled virtual assistant, was one of the biggest tech stories of 2011. But since Siri only runs on the iPhone 4S, many smartphone owners have been left behind. Now a brand new app called Evi is available to bring similar functionality to the Siri-less. The app (which, incidentally, shares its name with Randy Quaid's colorful wife) does not replicate Siri's full feature set, but it may surpass Apple's product in its ability to answer factual questions. But none of this will matter if it doesn't soon fix major problems early adoptors are encountering in its first days.

Evi lacks Siri's integration with the phone's operating system and, as a result, it's missing Siri's most useful features -- forget about using it to send texts or emails, and don't expect to set alarms or reminders.

But early tests by reviewers showed that when it comes to answering the type of questions that settle bar bets, Evi might have Siri beat. For example, TechCrunch asked both assistants who was the U.S. president when Queen Elizabeth II was born. (Answer: Calvin Coolidge.) Siri punted on the question, suggesting a Web search, but Evi did the hard work of determining who Queen Elizabeth II is and when she was born and then compared this information with the corresponding presidential data. In another faceoff, Evi offered multiple apple pie recipies while Siri again suggested a Web search.

If Evi sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. TechCrunch must have done their Evi-Siri faceoffs before the app went live on Monday, because hardly anyone since has been able to get an answer from it. While Evi's makers, Cambridge, England's True Knowledge, have spent the time since release apologizing for servers that can't accommodate the flood of new users, angry reviewers have flocked to the iTunes store and driven down the app's average rating to a mere 1.5 stars out of 5. Many reviewers say the only replies they've gotten to questions asked of Evi were error messages. For my own part, I've had answers to a couple test questions; I now know a gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds and that Carol Channing will be 91 next week, but I could have found out more quickly by using Google or even by phoning a reference librarian.

Sentiment outside of the iTunes store hasn't been much warmer. The iPhone Savior Blog says, "Based on feedback by most, Evi is one letter away from being branded as Siri's evil twin and then burned at the virtual stake."

Evi is free for Android users, who may as well download it, if they're curious and patient. But the iPhone version costs $1; Apple customers might want to wait to buy it until they hear that they'll get more for their money than error messages and apologies.