Echo vs Siri

M.G. Siegler, on using an Echo for three months, vs. his long-time Siri experience:

Why do you need to pull out your phone, unlock it, and open an app to see what the weather is? Just ask. Why do you need to pull out your phone, unlock it, and open an app to set a timer? Just say that’s what you want to do.


First and foremost, as I noted in the original post, the Echo is always listening. There is nothing to pull out, no button to push. Yes, with the iPhone 6s line, Siri is also always listening. But the key difference is the hit rate. Saying “Alexa” always seems to work. Saying “Hey Siri” seems to work about half the time or less, in my experience.

Apple is said to be solving the former, with a soon-to-be-announced Echo competitor.

As to the latter, I agree, this does need some work. Part of the problem, at least for me, is Apple Watch lag. There is too much latency to make “Hey Siri” on the Apple Watch feel snappy.

But I do see light at the end of this tunnel. Siri coming to Mac will bring a faster, always-on (at least when I am on my Mac) version of “Hey Siri” that should be near instantaneous. And new Apple Watch hardware should address the latency issue, at least at some level.

If Siri ups its game (as expected), Amazon’s Echo could go the way of the Amazon phone. On the other hand, if Apple announces a 3rd party Siri SDK at WWDC (as expected), that might be a bridge that extends Echo’s life. Perhaps Siri and Alexa can become friends.

  • You don’t need to unlock your iPhone to check weather or set timers. You don’t need a separate iPhone in each room or anywhere where you might want to do such things. And an iPad can sit unlocked on a desk and answer your “Hey Siri” requests. This morning, I asked for a 10-min snooze timer from bed, called up a playlist in my car, and opened Google Authenticator from my desk, all using “Hey Siri”, and it’s not even 9:00.

    • Ariel Isaac

      This. I use Siri a lot… No need to unlock for timers, weather etc. No need to “pull off.” Most of the time when at home my iPhone is laying around, I just say “Oye Siri” (Spanish for Hey Siri) and my iPhone comes to life and responds… Hey Siri is not perfect, and Apple can improve Siri a lot… but you don’t need to unlock your iPhone to set timers.

  • t_slothrop

    One advantage that allows Echo to always be on and listening, of course, is that it is plugged into a wall—no little battery to drain

    • Ruurd Pels

      One disadvantage is that it is pegged to one place in the house. Unlike Siri that lives in your pocket.

  • Juil

    I’m a heavy Siri user, and everybody looks at me weirdly when I use it. It’s just not well know and used by people (also from Android users). I personally think that the Amazon Echo benefits from being a dedicated voice activated device, instead of merely being a feature. So of course if Apple ups it’s game and start focussing more on Siri and iterate the feature it will get more useful to more people.

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  • I find “Hey Siri” is very sensitive to noise, unfortunately. If I’m driving at city speeds it works, but if I’m driving at highway speeds I need to raise my voice or it’s hit and miss. Likewise, if my iPhone is playing music out the speaker it’s more miss than hit, which is stupid since the phone is generating the sound. It ought to be able to eliminate it more. And if I’m driving down the highway listening to music out of the iPhone speaker, forgetaboutut.

  • StruckPaper

    Apple is not developing a competitor to Echo. It already exists in multiple forms – the iPhone, the iPad and the Apple Watch. The challenge is to – Make Siri more reliable and contextually intelligent. – Find a solution for those not wearing or owning a watch. Simply improve the iPhone or iPad mike? Or make mike that connects wirelessly to an #iDevice?

    • Meaux

      This is like saying those crappy WinMo and Handspring phones already did everything the first iPhone did (and more) and all they had to do was make the touchscreens more reliable and fix the UI. Those phones did technically do everything the iPhone did, the iPhone did them significantly better and with far lass friction and that made all the difference. .

  • Mo

    Oh, the tribulation and effort of pulling out a phone and running an app. Is our long, worldwide nightmare near an end?

  • The Cappy

    “The Echo is always listening.” Lovely. The only way that could be worse is if it was a Google product always listening. And soon it will be.

  • Bob Trikakis

    In a mobile world, which is the trend, why would anyone buy a product that makes you good inside to use. I think tech companies are wasting their time. Look at the numbers, only 3 million Echo’s in two years. I don’t get it.