Evi ▪ April 17, 2013
Evi ▪ March 16, 2012
The last we heard, Apple was working with developers of Siri alternatives such as True Knowledge, the developers behind “Evi,” to iron out similarities between the app and the iPhone 4S‘s flagship feature. Apple is quick to warn developers who are submitting Siri-like apps not to mimic native features of the OS. Apple wants an app’s features to remain “distinctly different from the iOS behaviors and interfaces to avoid causing user confusion.” Developer Sparkling Apps reached out to let us know Apple rejected its latest app submission called “Voice Answer,” with Apple telling the developer the Wolfram Alpha-powered alternative is “too similar to Siri.”
Apple is not flat-out rejecting all Siri alternatives/competitors. Sparkling Apps already has an app called “Voice Ask” on the App Store that sits in the top charts of the Reference category. Evi remains on the App Store as well. However, the Voice Ask app employs the same True Knowledge database as Evi. While Apple did not offer a specific reason for why the app was rejected, it is possible that Apple is more inclined to reject Siri-like apps using Siri’s Wolfram Alpha knowledge base. Unsurprisingly, the developers decided to release Voice Answer as an Android-only app on Google Play. So why would you want a third-party Siri alternative anyway? There are a few features an app like Voice Answer, if Apple were to allow it, would provide that Siri does not.
First off, the app would run on all devices with iOS 4.2 and up. It also provides spoken answers, optional keyboard input, and configurable items stored in the app’s memory. According to the developer, Voice Answer’s “speech recognition works better than that of Siri, especially with foreign accents,” and the app includes a chatbot called “Eve” that you can teach answers. While most of these features are also baked into Evi, it is unclear exactly why Apple is working with some developers to coexist peacefully with Siri, and then flat-out rejecting others without discussion. It is clear that iOS users are interested in these apps. With the 99-cent-Evi sitting around 200,000 downloads shortly after release, and Siri currently limited to only the iPhone 4S, there is definitely a market for voice-powered assistants if Apple allows it. However, Apple’s reasoning is vague for allowing some Siri competitors and rejecting others. An excerpt from Apple’s rejection to Sparkling Apps and screenshots of the unreleased Voice Answer iOS app are below. Unfortunately, if you want to try the app, you will have to on an Android device for the time being:
Evi ▪ February 27, 2012
True Knowledge, the brains behind a popular Siri alternative for iOS devices, received a note from Apple that the company will shoot down the popular 99-cent download from its mobile bazaar. According to TechCrunch, True Knowledge had a call from an Apple representative on Friday evening who informed them the company was “going to pull Evi from the App Store,” citing similarities with Siri.
However, pundits point out that Evi, which couples Nuance-licensed speech recognition engine with its own core semantic search technology dubbed the “True Knowledge Answer Engine,” may pose a threat to the otherwise stellar iPhone 4S sales due to folks running Evi on iPhone 4 being uncompelled to upgrade to an iPhone 4S.
If Apple’s real motivation is similarities and not competition, then perhaps the company should take a closer look at Japan carrier NTT DoCoMo’s new project that is a Siri alternative for non-iPhones.
Evi landed last month as a Siri alternative for owners of iOS devices. The program costs 99-cents and has already raked in 200,000 downloads, proving there is a practical market for search assistants on mobile devices. It is also available on the Android Market, so the App Store removal will not affect its availability on the rival Android platform. Siri owes much of its success to Apple’s top-notch marketing and an advanced artificial intelligence engine Apple scored by acquiring SRI. Shortly upon the iPhone 4S introduction last October, Siri spanned various projects aiming to port her to older iOS devices. She has also inspired similar programs on both Android and Windows Phone platforms.
Update: The Verge chimes in:
Despite what True Knowledge told TechCrunch, the app remains in the App Store, and according to sources familiar with the matter[translation: Apple off the record], Apple is attempting to work with the developers on bumping out those similarities, rather than just pulling the product. It’s apparently standard practice these days for Apple to flag something that could be confusing to end users and then try to work with developers to alter the appearance and / or functionality of the app, and we’re told that’s taking place with True Knowledge right now.
Evi ▪ January 23, 2012
We have seen Siri clones in the Android Market trying to pass themselves off as the real thing, and some Siri alternatives making their way to the Windows Phone Marketplace. Evi, on the other hand, might actually be the first true Siri competitor/alternative for Android and non-iPhone 4S iOS users.
Available on the App Store for 99 cents and free to Android users on the Android Market, Evi is the work of True Knowledge and its “core semantic search technology” better known as The True Knowledge Answer Engine. The 99-cent price tag on iOS is apparently to cover the cost of using Nuance voice recognition (the same voice recognition tech as Siri), which is not used in the Android version.
The app’s iTunes page explained Evi is capable of returning local data for the United Kingdom (along with the United States), which has been a complaint from U.K. Siri users since the iPhone 4S launch. According to TechCrunch, the app uses “an ontology of tens of thousands of classes into which” every possible user command can be recognized. True Knowledge said the app contains “almost a billion ‘facts’ (machine understandable bits of knowledge)” with the ability to infer trillions if necessary. It also reportedly uses all the expected sources, such as local results from Yelp, third-party websites, traditional web searches, and APIs.
While as of yet Evi is incapable of integrating with Calendar and Reminders like Siri, TechCrunch pointed out it sometimes provides more accurate and useful results for certain types of questions. Siri requests to search the web for an answer when users ask certain questions, such as “How do I make apple pie?” Evi, however, would provide a list of recipes with relevant links to that specific question. TechCrunch highlighted another example where Evi excels: