Our Northern twang means we’ve never really got on with Apple’s Siri service, but recent updates – such as the ability to finally get sports results and search for local services – means it’s a lot more reliable. Android fans haven’t really had a comparable service (with the exception of the flaky S Voice from Samsung), at least until now. Sherpa – previously a massive hit in Spain and Latin America, and finally making its debut here in the UK – looks like an excellent personal assistant which can easily hold its own against Siri, and in some cases even surpass it.
Get started with Sherpa
Setup is simple, as you’d expect: just download from Google Play for free, sign up for an account, and your PA is ready to rock. Sherpa can be accessed like a standard app, or also stuck right up on your desktop as a widget, and you can either type in your request or speak it by tapping the mic button.
The best thing about Sherpa is its flexibility. You aren’t stuck with a limited selection of commands: you can just ask Sherpa a question as you would a normal human, and it works out what you’re trying to do. For instance, ask ‘do I need a coat today?’ and Sherpa shows you the weather for the rest of the day in your location. Ask if you’re free at lunch time on Tuesday, and you’ll get a quick yes or no response, plus any relevant calendar information.
Sherpa vs Siri
But less talk, more head-to-head fighty action! Here’s what happened where we put Sherpa up against Siri with a bunch of standard requests...
Test One: Weather
Siri gives you a full break-down of the day's weather and also the reported low when you ask whether you'll need a coat for venturing outside. Sherpa gives you a low and high at first glance, and you have to tap through for a more detailed breakdown.
Test Two: Texting
Both Sherpa and Siri understood our request to send a simple text message, and gave us the option to send or cancel before following through.
Test Three: Sports
Both Sherpa and Siri also understood our demand for the latest footy scores. However, while Siri exclaimed that Newcastle United was 'subjugated', Sherpa went for the more satisfying 'destroyed'.
Test Four: Who is...
Sherpa has a clear advantage over Siri when it comes to delivering information on a person or place. While Siri simply serves up a Google search, Sherpa gives you a proper bio, including age, date of birth and other stats, plus links to photos, videos and personal websites.
Test Five: Quick fact
Both Siri and Sherpa throw up the right answer in double-quick time.
Test Six: Meetings
Siri will happily inform you of your next meeting, including time and place, but Sherpa can go one further and actually direct you there. Nice.
Both Sherpa and Siri will also search the local area for restaurants and other services, and integrate with social networks to check if anyone's talking about you: great for paranoid or self-important types.
Music and cash
In addition to the basic stuff, Sherpa can even send money to your buddies via PayPal: we witnessed a quick and simple fund transfer that took a handful of seconds, all done via voice control.
However, even more impressive is Sherpa’s music streaming compatibility. The developer was unable to tell us which online service Sherpa links into (at least for now), but ask it to play a song from pretty much any band imaginable, and you’ll get a playlist of tunes from that artist. That's music that you can specify and stream for free, much like Spotify's free-to-use service. Great stuff.
If you’re an Android owner who’s curious about Siri-type personal assistants, Sherpa is an excellent and free-to-use service that is both intelligent and personable.