Revealed: the best digital assistant on your phone and smart speaker

Some smart assistants are smarter than others. But which one's best?

Google assistant
(Image credit: Google)

Digital assistants have come a long way in a very short time, and many of us depend on them to control our smart homes, to set reminders and in the case of my kids, to cheat on their homework. But which one's best? There's only one way to find out – and that's to ask a YouTuber.

The popular YouTuber MKBHD (opens in new tab) has put all of the big-name voice assistants to the test, and it turns out there's a big difference between the best and the worst. So if you're thinking of buying one of the best phones or best smart speakers in the Boxing Day sales, you might want to check out the video first.

Who's the smartest assistant of them all?

The comparison used each of the big-name digital assistants on smartphones, where they tend to have the most powers, and found that for the basic stuff there wasn't much difference between them: they all coped fine with general questions about the weather forecast, the news, and for simple tasks such as setting timers – although Siri still can't handle multiple ones. But even then there were differences between the assistants, and it turns out that Google Assistant and Samsung Bixby give you the most control over your phone.

Overall, Google Assistant got the best assistant award – which isn't really surprising when you consider Google's huge resources and the massive amounts of our personal data it's been crunching for years now; that's also why despite Apple's best efforts, Google Maps is better than Apple Maps. 

And the worst? That's Amazon's Alexa, and not just because unlike the other assistants it isn't native to any phone platform. The tests found that Alexa wasn't as good at finding facts, didn't integrate well with other apps and used comparatively poor conversational models. 

Personally I'd have given Siri a low rating too. It's noticeably slower to respond than its rivals, it often mishears me in hilarious and annoying ways and it's still fairly limited in its ability to answer questions – something I, and my kids, have found Alexa to be much better at. 

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).