I still remember the first time Apple announced Siri. It was possibly the first time non apple users had something to rue about not having and the race for making the best voice based personal assitant started. The only competition for Siri so far has been Google Voice of the jellybean release. However, the options of English(US) and English(UK), left a major chunk of smartphone users speaking (or trying to) in American and British accents to try and get their phones to understand them, let alone do something.
This left a lot room for voiced based personal assistants. Many OEM's have tried and released such apps bundled with the phone itself, but nothing that I'm aware of was able to solve the accent problem, until now. The highly acclaimed and the recently launched Maluuba is now availible to Indian users and as soon as I got my hands on it, I asked it a bunch of questions, and here are three things that stood out -
- It understands the Indian accent really well
- Its actually like 3 apps; a tile themed explorer, a voice based assistant and an extension to the on-board Google Organizer
- It doesn't talk back, answers in text only
With this premise, lets have a look at the app.
The function of the app is to be a personal assistant; like a replacement of a go to guy, only on a phone. From finding you places to go to near by or finding a particular kind of food place to reminding you to buy the milk, this app is meant to help you out. While it doesn't have witty comebacks like Siri does or doesn't answer your questions in a computerized voice, the results are pretty accurate. I asked it for some good places to eat, in my own Indian accent and here's what it showed me.
Pretty neat huh? So I decided to ramp it up a little more and asked it if I should carry an umbrella and here's what it showed me.
As with others, it showed me the weather and was well aware of Nilam. Next, I asked it for directions, and it gave me exactly what it wanted.
It also acts as a reminder; to illustrate, here's what it showed me when I asked it to remind me to call my girl friend, and like a good friend, it set me a reminder.
You get it right? The use cases of the app is endless and it is definitely something I would use extensively.
Its a brilliant app. It is really good at what it does and is customized for the Indian accent. I asked all of the above questions in the same way I would talk to another person and 3 out of 4 times it would catch me word for word. You have to try it yourself to believe it.
If you're not into talking to your phone, the app caters for you as well. It has broad categories such as restaurants, movies, music, events etc., which would give you the same results as a voice search. I did try using it in places with high background noise and it confused the app and the text and touch options is really useful here.
Every time that I thought that it wouldn't be able to follow what I'm saying, it proved me wrong. Take this for example. I asked it to take me to Indra Nagar in Bangalore, and it gave me a list of places that in Indra Nagar that I could visit. Need I say more on its effectiveness?
Grading this on innovation is difficult. Its not like there aren't other apps that do what Maluuba does, but its how customized it is to the local way of speaking that gets me every single time. I haven't come across another app that does the things that Maluuba does half as good as it and so I'm guessing that there has been a fair amount of IP invested in this.
Battery Report – By Little Eye Labs
The power management of ‘Maluuba’ is fair. For an app that does interpretation of voice commands and also has a network component to search contents on internet, Maluuba does a fairly good job of managing power. The usage of CPU is very much directed to the voice processing and the developers have taken care to keep it to a minimum. There is no unusual activity or buggy UI animations that are taking up CPU. The Wifi usage is also on demand and within a reasonable amount. There is almost an even split in power consumption by CPU and Wifi. The app is a foreground app and hence as expected it's power consumption becomes almost zero when it is put in background.
The MP10 report for ‘Maluuba’ as expected from the above testing, and was quite fair. According to the tests (and considering only CPU and Wifi usage into account), the app will on an average drain 10% of the battery (of a standard 1400mah capacity) in ~3.24 hours.
UI and UX
Its a Metro App for Android. The tiles and the vibrant colours are very reminiscent of the recently launched Windows 8 platform. Transitions between the
screens are smooth and it is uniform in its theme; bright colours and tiles in various shapes and sizes. Even the fonts on this is very Metro like.This isn't a bad thing and to me it was very new and refreshing for me. However there are those who might not like the bright and vibrant colors and in my experience, the Metro theme has gotten boring over time.
Also the view for answers which state facts is a little cluttered and the mic button seems out of place, disturbing the symmetric look and feel of the app.
But overall a good looker and a decent user experience.
What We Liked
So by now, I think you've figured out that I really like this app and I won't deny it. But to be more specific, here's what I liked about the app -
- A VERY effective voice search functionality – It really understands you!
- A clean UI and a east-to-get-used-to UX
- It talks to other apps within your phone, such as Maps, Calendar etc.
- Facebook and Google integration, for obvious reasons
- Many great and compelling use cases
What We Didn't Like
- No app is perfect, but I'm really scraping the barrel here. Here's what I didn't like about the app - I think this app can do with a talk back feature as well. Really can't use this app while driving
- Some UI Tweaks are requires, especially a repositioning of the mic button on the answers page
If you have a smartphone, you've got to have this app. It beats Google Voice and Siri is so many ways. I do miss the talk back feature and the UI could be less cluttered in the answers page, but the app is so effective that I can live with that.
Kudos to the brains behind this app, Maluuba truly is awesome. Try it, and you'll know what I'm talking about.
Download Maluuba here.
Download the complete Little Eye Report here
P.S. I also want to congratulate Little Eye Labs for having made it to the GSF Accelerator as one of the companies from Bangalore. Feel free use the comments section to wish them and also tell us what you think of the Maluuba.