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Voice Answer updated with more features for people locked out of Siri

Mel Martin

Owners of the Apple iPad 1 and 2 won't get Siri on iOS 6 when it ships. Neither will those who use an iPhone older than the 4S. That leaves people looking for alternatives, and fortunately there are a few.

I took a look at Evi some months back, and now newcomer Voice Answer, which is US$3.99 in the App Store. It runs on any iOS device with iOS 4.3 or greater installed. The new version, just released, adds voice messaging, email dictation and calling from the iPhone contact list. The app can translate into 54 languages, update Facebook and publish Tweets. It also can set reminders, but not through the iOS Reminders app. Instead, it goes on your calendar and adds an alert, which is fine.

Despite the improvements, Voice Answer just doesn't seem as sharp as Siri. In my last review I asked the app for driving directions to Phoenix, and got a "Your question is not clear to me" response. I tried with the new version and got, "I do not understand, sorry." Voice Answer did find the nearest golf courses, something the older version could not do.

While the app says it can make calls from your contacts, that didn't work very well in my tests. When I asked the app to call my friend John (I gave the first and last name) it gave me a list of every John in my contact list, none of which had a similar sounding last name. Another 2 points for Siri. Sending email had some of the same problems as calling someone. I would give Voice Answer a unique name, and it asked me to rephrase the query.

This new version has an articulated animated robot on screen, which is where you direct your questions. I found the experience a bit creepy and the look of the robot was kind of grotesque. Thankfully, you can opt for the older, Siri-like GUI and turn the robot animation off.

Despite the less than perfect recognition, I think Voice Answer is a credible substitute for people who can't get Siri. Sure, it has some rough edges, but so does Siri, which remains in beta.

If you need a quick check on the weather, or a web search, or information on a variety of subjects, Voice Answer does very well. It seems to trip up on the newer features, like calling and messaging, but I'm hoping those things will improve over time.

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