Why doesn’t Android have this killer feature, and why hasn’t anyone noticed?

Ok, I’m quite a Siri fan. Sure there are times when Google Now thrashes the pants off it, but it’s fairly capable for a lot of situations.

I flip from Android to iOS quite a bit, and recently have found myself considering switching back to an Android device after having my iPhone5 for just over three months (a personal best in the last few years!). There’s just one thing holding me back, and I’m quite surprised Google haven’t rectified this yet.

Siri works when the screen is locked.

That’s it. Quite simple.

On the recent Android devices I’ve used for more than a quick test (Galaxy S3, Note 2) this doesn’t work. Google Now and even S-Voice can only be activated when the screen is unlocked. I should mention I *always* have my phone locked with a PIN, as so many people. Siri still works fine despite this (although it can be disabled if desired in the options).

Last night, walking home from work, in the rain Siri proved it’s worth yet again. I’m listening to music ( through the headphones, naturally) and get a text. I ask Siri to read the text to me, which it does. I dictate my reply, and resume listening to my music. I then decide to call a mate, again, via Siri. During this whole process my phone hasn’t left my pocket, safe and dry.

Why can’t Google Now do this? Or Windows Phone?  Voice recognition is excellent in Android, dictation in particular, but this seems like massive ommision, at least for my usage.

Yesterday, we posted an article about the HTC Mini, which can be used in conjunction with your (potentially large) phone. This is another example of technology working around the fact you don’t always need to be staring at a large slate to get things done.

The second part of the title here isn’t just for sensationalism, I’m genuinely intrigued! For me, this is a killer feature. I have a busy life, and this helps me get things done on the move.

Will this feature ever be present in Google Now? Will Windows Phone catch up?  I’d like to think so.

What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below, or even contact me on Twitter.


Samsung Ativ S - Picture Special
The HTC Mini - a phone for your HTC Butterfly
  • James

    I literally think it’s just a security thing… Surely anyone can reply to a text/ make a call via Siri if you can bypass the lock screen without entering the code?

    • Anonymous

      Windows Phone has been able to initiate voice control such as make calls, hear text messages, send text messages etc over Bluetooth with the screen pin locked since 7.0. WP8 extends it to make Voice Notes and a few other things. Use it all the time in the car and as you said in the rain. It could be possible that MS or Apple holds a patent on it. Remember when Apple/MS signed a licensing deal which Google never has. If that were the case, it would just be another thing MS or Apple could go after Android OEMS for. Or simply just an oversight on Androids part.

      • Dave Fox

        S-Voice on my Galaxy Note II works happily from my Bluetooth headset whilst the screen is locked, and from there I can do almost anything (initiate a call, start an app, add a diary entry, note etc).

        As has been previously stated, I wouldn’t want this to happen from a wired headset for security reasons – if someone got hold of my phone, they’d just need a wired set of headphones to start messing around with it without having to unlock it.

        • Well, as I said you can turn it off. For me, that’s not that much of an issue. I always have my phone on my person, and if I lost it for any reason, it would be remotely wiped.

      • Interesting that it works over Bluetooth and not a wired headset, as per Dave’s post below. It does seem odd.

        • Anonymous

          In WP there is an option called “Use Speech when Phone is locked” use it for Bluetooth, never tested it with Wired but needs to be enabled for bluetooth.

  • Killer feature? Nothing about voice search is killer. Please give me a scenario where talking to your phone is either not extremely odd and awkward or doesn’t make you look like a complete douche.

    • I already did, in the article… another one is in the car. Dictating text messages, selecting songs / playlists and making calls, all without even looking at the phone let alone touching it.

  • John Reggio

    Can you explain why the voice recognition feature on WhatsApp is so much better than the native one on Messenger??? It hardly EVER makes a mistake, while the Messenger one always needs corrections.

    • They don’t use the same speech recognition engine I would assume.

  • Two words. Battery Life. On devices with poor battery life, it would cripple them, and Android OS is only ever as good as the lowest popular device that runs it.

    • I don’t think Android lacks functionality entirely just because of battery life. Surely having to have the screen ON and using Google Now actually uses more power, not less.

    • I think Google just forgot to allow Google Now to operate when locked. I doubt it’s due to battery life. Most Android phones have ample battery life, e.g. the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 has a 3100 mAh battery compared to the iPhone 5’s 1440 mAh battery.

  • Google is currently suing Apple for copying Siri.

  • Martin

    To me it isn’t a killer feature, voice activation just doesn’t have any pull. Couldn’t be bothered if my phone has it or not.
    As for being able to use voice activation while the phone is locked, seems like a big security issue. All well and good being able to remote wipe a device, what if they racked up hundreds of £££s worth of calls before you realise it has gone?

    • True.. everything of this nature is convenience at reduced security. Lock screen notifications in jelly bean 4.2 is another good example. Trust me, I break out in hives if my phone is more than 1m away, I would know! ;)