The number of Android voice assistants and search apps, such as Vlingo, Google Now, Nuance’s Dragon Go!, Iris, et al, has grown to a point where one needs a very succinct analysis of what exclusive features a new entrant supports. Maluuba, the brainchild of the company with the same name, is the latest to join the list of the apps mentioned above. Sporting an eye-pleasing Windows 8-style UI, the app accepts voice and text input to help you with virtually anything on your Android (Update: Now available for Windows Phone as well). Using Maluuba, you can explore nearby food points, conduct general knowledge search queries, request for navigation to desired destinations, get business information, ask for detailed weather forecasts, manage & interact with your contacts via phone calls, mails, text messages & social media, post to various social networks, launch apps, get upcoming event details, play music, set reminders, alarms & calendar events, get movie showtimes, maintain routine schedules, and search across the wide world for web to get accurate answers for your queries. In some areas, the app can help you through its built-in features, whereas for all unsupported features, it presents you with the choice to head over to the concerned apps. Like most aforementioned solutions, Maluuba is quite effective in certain aspects, but can also leave users desiring for more in others. How? We shall explore past the break.
The app’s main UI is split into three main sections: Explore, Search and My Day. If you’re aware of all the features and commands that Maluuba supports, you’ll probably not be required to use the other two tabs, as the search screen itself lets you input almost anything via text or voice. Maluuba then interprets the input content, and responds accordingly. Voice recognition is pretty accurate, time taken to interpret commands is slightly longer than what we get with Google Now/ Google Search, and the best thing about feeding in commands is that you don’t have to strictly follow some specific input guidelines. Instead, you can just speak in to your Android’s microphone whatever command you wish to carry out and Maluuba will try its best to respond accordingly. While there are currently no shortcut means to call Maluuba’s services outside of the app – neither via Google Search
nor a homescreen widget – users have the option to trigger voice recognition by tapping the omnipresent microphone icon on almost every screen within the app.
Swiping sideways lets you navigate to the Explore or My Day screen. As evident from their respective titles, both screens can help you with navigating to a certain supported facet of Maluuba, in general, and your daily schedule, in particular, respectively. The Explore screen comprises several color-coded tiles, each dedicated to displaying instant and content-sensitive information regarding to restaurants, weather, movies, knowledge (open choice), navigation (open choice), businesses, music, events and all the various means of communicating with your contacts and accessing your social world.
Each supported category is supplemented with ample helpful content and voice commands that you can use to obtain desirable results. Maluuba utilizes several online services, such as Wolfram Alpha, Wunderground, Amazon MP3, Yelp and numerous others, to pull all the answers and helpful material from. What’s better is that, speaking the word ‘Search’ in to your mic launches a list of all the famous search engines – Google, Bing, YouTube, eBay, Amazon and Epicurious – that are natively supported by Maluuba.
Looking at the app’s schedule and reminders section, we find three tabs at the bottom that can help you with adding new alarms, calendar events and reminders to your Maluuba schedule. The rest of the screen displays detailed breakdown of your day’s events, including updated information pulled from your social world. In case of an uneventful day, the app presents you with various choices to add some sort of activities to your day. For instance, you may opt to look for nearby restaurants to plan a dine out, search for upcoming movies of choice and add a relevant event to your calendar, inquire about a business of interest and plan a visit accordingly, or schedule whatever event you like.
As with the scheduling segment, the app has a native music player that can directly play songs requested via voice commands. Similarly, weather details are displayed natively, as are the answers to your general knowledge questions. Same could be said of local businesses, events, social network post updates, nearby amenities, and direct launching of apps.
During its brief test run, the app didn’t seem to support toggling system features, detect several installed apps (like YouTube), recognize relatively long voice commands, and/or make alterations to the misinterpreted queries. In addition, inputting voice commands for interaction with contacts doesn’t actually trigger required actions, but rather prompt users to manually serve the favor. Although quite neatly built, the app’s native music player suffered a lot of hiccups in the form of annoying force closes. Plus, our concerns with the lack of homescreen widget or easy ways to access the app have already been discussed. In short, like most existing voice-controlled Android virtual assistants, Maluuba presents a case of ‘jack of all trades but master of none’, meaning there are numerous fronts on which Maluuba has to improve in order to challenge its counterparts.
Still, personally speaking, I’d rank the app quite high in terms of the interface. Also, the fact that Maluuba supports an entirely dedicated section for event management, and allows easy navigation to categories of interest, along with stern integration with plenty of quality online service, makes it a very handy candidate that deserves a fair try.
Maluuba is available in the Google Play Store as a free app, and requires Android v2.3.3 (Gingerbread) or higher to run.
Update 1: Agreeing to the users’ request for a home screen widget in an affirmative manner, the team behind Maluuba has decided to add not one but three different styles of widgets to the very first post-release update that the app has received.
Using these widgets, users can now perform text or voice-based search queries right from the comfort of their Android’s homescreens.
Update 2: The app is now available for Windows Phone 8. We’ve added it’s Windows Phone Store link below.