There is nothing sweeter than pulling out your phone, asking it a question, and getting back the one obscure piece of information you need to settle a debate or win a drunken bet. Smartphones from Google, Apple, and Microsoft all offer a personal assistant who claims to be flush with knowledge drawn from around the web. But when it comes to providing useful answers, a new study shows there is a clear choice when you're stumped and need to phone a friend.
The SEO consulting agency Stone Temple has published the results of a case study it conducted on the digital assistants that come standard on the mobile devices powered by Google, Apple, and Microsoft. The Verge reached out to the company, and it confirmed that none of these tech giants had ever been a client, but of course this is still a study from a private company, not rigorous academic research, so take it with a grain of salt.
Stone Temple presented each service with 3000 voice queries — What is a group of monkeys called? Who invented Facebook? — and tabulated the results. Not surprisingly, given Google's specialty in search, Google Now was the clear leader. It returned the most enhanced results and complete answer by a wide margin. The study cross-checked the queries with web searches on Bing and Google. Interestingly, Bing returned more complete results than Cortana, indicating that Microsoft could improve its mobile assistant by more fully integrating it with its search engine.
The study also checked a bunch of Easter eggs — What does the fox say? What is love? — but doesn't provide any concrete data on which system has the best sense of humor.