App Spotlight: Maluuba for Android is like Siri—without the backtalk

There's something pretty brash about an Android app that calls out the competition right in its own name.

Maluuba: Your Siri Alternative is exactly that—a voice-powered helper app that can do everything from checking the weather to scheduling appointments to finding the closest Fedex box. And unlike Siri, it doesn't yammer on and on; it just works.

I kid. I don't mind Siri's verbal responses. But I also like Maluuba's speedy, silent operation. Just tell it what you want and bam, done.

Though designed for Android, Maluuba bears more than a passing resemblance to a Windows Phone app, especially on its Explore page. There you'll find colorful tiles for things like weather, businesses, and navigation.

There's also a Search page where you can tap an onscreen microphone or type your search. And the My Day page shows a gorgeous summary of appointments, alarms, and reminders.

Wherever you are in the app, a tap of the microphone lets you issue a command. You can update Facebook or Twitter, get directions, ask how many calories are in a donut, and so on.

However, Maluuba doesn't quite match up to Siri in some areas. For example, it won't give you movie reviews or last night's baseball scores. And when you update, say, Facebook or Twitter, it interprets the slightest pause in your speech as completion of your update. It needs to better recognize natural pauses.

And locations. I asked it for the nearest Fedex drop box, and it gave me locations in Ann Arbor—a town that's about 35 miles down the road. Odd, too, given that it had no problem steering me to my exact location in Google Maps when I asked, "Where am I?"

I also encountered a small bug when testing the app on a Motorola Defy XT: The My Day page constantly displayed a spinning "syncing my day" icon; for whatever reason, it never actually finished syncing. Only after I skipped ahead a few days did it complete the action.

It would be nice if Maluuba offered some method for linking itself to, say, the Search button (with a double-tap, perhaps), or some other automated way to load it. That said, this is one seriously cool and useful Android app, one you should definitely whip out the next time a co-worker crows about Siri.

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