Evi review [iPhone]
We sit down for an enlightening chat with Evi, the talkative app that brings a Siri-like knowledgebase to any iPhone
To be quite blunt, we want Siri on all iPhones and iPads, but it's a feature Apple is clearly holding back in an effort to strong arm unnecessary hardware upgrades. Bah.
But while Apple is twisting the corners of its moustache and chuckling an evil chuckle to itself over a mountain of gold, it's inadvertently creating a thriving market for third-party Siris. The latest to hit the top of the App Store's Lifestyle charts is Evi, and it's pretty easy to see why.
First things first, though. There's a significant difference between Siri and Evi. The latter app is essentially a voice activated search engine, and doesn't tie in with any of the iPhone's native apps. So if you're looking for a microphone button that can send a text message or email, that's not within Evi's remit.
So that leaves us asking whether or not we want voice recognition for a quick internet search, and when it's put like that, we're probably not bothered. But it's here that Evi's finds similarities with Siri once again, as it's intelligent enough to offer responses to your queries that a simple Google keyword search would struggle with.
Much of this intelligence comes from Evi's location awareness, and the app includes your current geographical data as a foundation for any data you might ask for. So if you ask for cinema listing times, or tell the app that you've a hankering for Chinese food, it automatically focuses the search on nearby venues even if you've not specifically asked it to. The result is a degree of understanding, accuracy and pseudo-intuitiveness that makes a search result significantly more useful.
Of course, it's not all about GPS locations. You can ask about Dan Brown's books, and Evi will give you a rundown of what he's written. But if you tell the app that you want to buy a Dan Brown book, it will literally guide you in the right direction.
Speech recognition is quite superb in Evi, even if the resulting answer isn't what you wanted or even if the question isn't understood. Anything you say is converted into text, and it's very rarely wrong, except for occasional, forgivable difficultly with names. You can also enter text with the keyboard to overcome this natural barrier, and positive or negative feedback can be given to each answer to help Evi improve her skills.
The clean interface is another strong point of Evi's design, and you can customise things like voice volume (she also speaks) and erase your history if the list is getting a bit long. The built-in browser also comes in very handy so you're not continually jumping in and out of the app, which you would be doing considering Evi's lean toward certain online services.
A lot of the time the app will push you to browse Yell.com, 118.com and Yelp for answers, which isn't always what you want. A straight answer from Evi herself would be preferable, especially when you check the search results the app has found on these commercial services only to find they're vague and inaccurate. This isn't exactly Evi's fault, as it generally migrates the correct search terms, but it does feel a bit lazy relying so heavily on this tactic.
We would love to see Evi cooperate with other native apps like Maps, Calendar, Messages and Mail, as the voice recognition is rock solid. In the meantime, though, Evi does make for a very decent search engine alternative. Oh, and don't bother swearing at her - she doesn't understand it.