Keeping a daily paper planner to log appointments and tasks has become a tedious and archaic household habit of the past. Personal assistant technology like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa now serve as the household master scheduler for families who need to track every appointment, practice, birthday party, school play and more. These ever-ready assistants also have the quick capability to look up any piece of information, including the latest weather, traffic and news details. But how does one digitally-synced voice keep everything together? And how do you know what assistant is the best one for your family?
Here is your definitive guide to choosing—and utilizing—the best virtual assistant to help organize your life and keep all those tasks and to-do items together without missing a beat…or an appointment. Whether you have an Apple device, an Echo, Google Home or rely on Microsoft 10, there is a personal assistant of the future ready and willing to help answer your question and keep your household running smoothly!
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Apple can be credited with beginning the virtual assistant trend. Siri was created while Steve Jobs reigned over Apple, and the friendly voice has become a staple on all of Apple’s devices. According to Cult of Mac, Siri debuted on the iPhone4S in 2011. Today, all of Apple devices are equipped with Siri, so if you own an Apple product, Siri should be your virtual assistant of choice. While there are many virtual assistants for consumers, Siri dominates the market. TechCrunch cited figures compiled by Verto Analytics that revealed that 41.4 million users rely on Apple’s friendly voice each month for tasks ranging from scheduling appointments to looking up nearby restaurants.
Siri is more than just a voice that can find quick answers to your questions or even help place a phone call. The technology can help you make better financial decisions, track appointments and even set reminders.
Activating Siri is a bit like summoning a genie from the lamp. Just ask “Hey, Siri,” and the virtual assistant is ready to do your bidding.
No, Siri can’t be your personal money manager quite yet; while this virtual assistant is savvy, Siri shouldn’t take the place of an accountant or financial advisor. Siri can help with basic financial needs, though. According to Wisebread, you can use Siri to help calculate tips, discover financial apps for budgeting, and find money-saving driving routes.
Siri can set reminders so you never miss an appointment, meeting or an important function. Just tell Siri to ‘set a reminder.’ Siri will respond with: “Ok, just tell me what you want to be reminded about.” Give instructions for your reminder, including dates and times. You’ll also have the option to delete the reminder if you make a mistake. Use reminders for last-minute appointments, pick-up time changes for school or practices or just anything you absolutely don’t want to forget!
When you want to schedule an appointment, just tell Siri to schedule the appointment. The assistant will respond by asking you for the date and time of the appointment. Always be specific about dates and times. You’ll also need to specifically tell Siri what appointment you wish to schedule. If you just say “schedule an appointment at noon on July 21st,” your schedule will show “Appointment” on the date of July 21st. Instead, specify “appointment with Dr. John Doe on noon on July 21st.” Otherwise your calendar may be filled with vague events that leave your already frazzled mind even more stumped!
You also can use Siri to make a hands-free phone call. If you’re up to your elbows in dinner prep, just say “Hey, Siri” and then ask your assistant to dial the number. This should also ensure that the call is placed on speakerphone for hands-free chatting.
According to CNBC, Siri also can make reservations for you at restaurants. The site says that you just need to say: “Hey Siri, find me restaurants for dinner tonight.” You also can ask for a certain type of restaurant. Once you find your destination, the site says that you can use OpenTable or Yelp to schedule your reservation.
Amazon hit the ball out of the park with Alexa, the personal assistant that is featured on the Echo, Echo Dot and other Amazon devices. Like Siri, Alexa can schedule your events on your Amazon tablet or devices. But Alexa also has a few tricks that make this assistant super savvy for families. And, while Siri is the most popular assistant, Alexa is catching up…fast. Figures reported by TechCrunch–and compiled by Verto Analytics– revealed that Alexa has 2.6 million users each month–a fraction of Siri’s more than 40 million users. However, TechCrunch noted that Siri’s favor with consumers fell 15 percent, while Alexa’s surged 325 percent. While Apple still dominates the market, Alexa’s massive growth might reveal that Amazon’s accessible and multi-functional personal assistant is becoming a must-have for many consumers.
Ordering on Amazon
Since Alexa is Amazon’s creation, the assistant can be used for all-things Amazon. That means, you can place orders for “prime-eligible physical products” with Alexa. This function, however, can be a bit troublesome if you have kids. You may end up with items showing up on your doorstep if you aren’t careful! Thankfully, Amazon notes that Alexa also can cancel orders…just in case!
Bonus points: according to Amazon, Alexa also can order music.
Money Saving Tips
PC magazine notes that Alexa is quite the savvy resource for basic financial tips and skills. Numerous skills for financial needs–from Amex and Capital One to home-buying help–can be pulled up by investigating the Business & Finances skill section. Need more tips? Just say “Alexa, open money saving tips,” and you’ll have a list of helpful hints.
Easy Pizza Delivery
According to TechCrunch, Domino’s was the first restaurant to allow Alexa to place orders for pizza! However, as the site notes, hungry customers need to create a Pizza Profile before they can dictate their pepperoni demands to Alexa. While Domino’s once held dominion over Alexa, Pizza Hut now also allows hungry customers to ask Alexa to place their pizza order.
Not up for pizza? GrubHub also works with Alexa (and Amazon) to allow customers to place orders. You will need to be a GrubHub customer, though. Denny’s, Fazoli’s and, of course, Starbucks also work with Alexa.
Alexa also works with certain home products—including specialized outlets—to control lights, radios and even the television. Once the home systems are synced, you can ask Alexa to turn the lights on (or off), turn on the Christmas tree lights or even lock your doors. Depending on what you sync to Alexa, the virtual assistant also can be your personal housekeeper—Roomba also syncs to Alexa, and the device will start cleaning on command!
Mobile Personal Assistants To Watch Out For
Siri and Alexa may be the most frequently used assistance, but Cortana is digging into the market, too. TechCrunch, citing Verto Analytics’ report, noted that Cortana has about 0.7 million monthly users. Cortana can be utilized on Windows10, Android devices and, yes, even iPhones to schedule and keep track of appointments. Like Alexa, Cortana can control lights, order pizza and even pull recipes from the Food Channel. According to Microsoft’s info site, Cortana works with Wink to control lights, and also syncs up with Phillips Hue personal wireless lighting. Cortana also can help track new baby info—like wet and dirty diapers (a stat many new parents count in the early days). But Cortana also has a few other ‘mad skills:’
One of Cortana’s skills is the list builder, which allows you to create handy to-do lists, grocery lists and more. This allows you to simplify your shopping trip and save time.
Do you really need to leave at 5:30 p.m.? Just tell Cortana, and the virtual assistant can remind you that, yes, it’s time to go!
Need to find the best deals to save money? Ask Cortana to open Bargain Buddy, which tells you the best deals being offered by Woot, Meh and more.
The Google personal (or virtual) assistant can be downloaded to a device via the GooglePlay store and is also featured on Google Home. According to Verto Analytics Google Home remains one of the more popular virtual assistants with about 4.7 million users each month. With Google’s personal assistant, you can take a selfie, send a text, get weather info, schedule appointments, set reminders and more. As CNET notes, this personal assistant also can convert currency for you, set alarms and timers, check info online, place orders via Google Express, and certain smart home devices also work with Google’s assistant. CNET also notes that the assistant also has a few Easter Egg features.
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Which one is right for your family?
Each virtual personal assistant offers unique features for families. Choosing the best assistant might be as easy as looking to the brand on your device. If you own an Echo, Alexa is already there for you. When using an iPhone, cue up Siri. And, yes, you can mix and match assistants. However, if you’re using both Siri and Alexa, choose one as your master scheduler to avoid confusion and lost info. For appointments and task mastering, the best advice is to use the virtual assistant associated with your phone’s brand. Our phone is by our side almost 24/7, so your phone should have all your appointments, tasks and obligations synced to its calendar. At home, though, Google’s personal assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Alexa are go-to choices for syncing your home to hands-free devices. Need to order pizza from the recliner? Cortana and Alexa are your best friends!
Virtual personal assistants are the wave of the future and found on almost every modern smartphone and electronic device, and the capabilities of these personalized Artificial Intelligence companions advance each year. From setting reminders and scheduling appointments to ordering pizza and turning off the lights, virtual assistants can help control the chaos of the household with a simple voice-activated request. All you have to do is ask!