If you play by Google's rules, though, you'll find that the app is smooth and helpful. Perhaps because Voice Actions is a Google-developed app interacting with a Google-developed operating system and (in many cases) with other Google-developed apps such as Maps, the whole system works fairly seamlessly.
For a number of tasks, however, Voice Actions wasn't quite as hands-free as I might have wished from a virtual assistant. When I asked for the day's weather, for instance, instead of reading me the day's forecast--as Speaktoit Assistant did--Voice Actions searched the Web for a weather report that I had to read off my screen; this arrangement isn't a problem if you're walking along the street, but it's definitely inconvenient if you're driving.
Vlingo is one of the few Android assistants that doesn't rely exclusively on Google's voice recognition system. You can choose to use Google's system or Vlingo's home-grown processing. My advice is to stick with Google. I tried Vlingo's voice recognition and found it generally disappointing.
In fact, I was disappointed by this free app overall. It couldn't perform a number of functions--such as reading me my calendar or setting an alarm--at all. Even odder were capabilities that it had one day and seemed to lose the next. The first time I tested Vlingo, for instance, it did a competent job of preparing an email message. But the next time I asked it to "send an email," it simply offered to Google the phrase "send an email."
Vlingo does have some bright spots. It can send tweets and update your Facebook status. Also, when you give Vlingo a command, it continues listening to you until you press Done. Many other systems stop listening as soon as they detect a pause, forcingyoutospeakreallyfastsothattheydon'tcutoffbeforeyou'redone.
Next: Jeannie and Eva Intern
Up until about a week ago, this app was called Voice Actions, just like the Google app. To end the confusion, the third-party developer, Pannous, changed the name of its app to Jeannie (it still shows up on my phone as Voice Actions, however, even though I've updated the app). Jeannie is free. Alternatively you can purchase a $3 Voice Actions Plus app with the same capabilities. Pannous says that the Plus version of the app should process your speech more quickly.