Google put Apple's Siri and startups such as Vlingo on notice with Voice Actions for Android, an extension of Google's voice-search technology that lets users speak commands into their smartphone to browse the Web, send texts and make calls.
Users of smartphones running Android 2.2 can tap the microphone button on the Google search box on their phone's home screen, or press and hold the physical-search button on the phone to activate the "Speak Now" screen.
Google has created a number of commands users can use to send text messages, find directions or call businesses. Users may read those commands here and see a demo of them in action.
The technology builds on Google's popular "Search by Voice" feature, which lets speakers of English, Spanish, Japanese and several other languages, speak into their phone's microphone to search the Web.
Available now for English speakers only, Voice Actions for Android will be pre-installed with the new Motorola Droid 2 phone, which Verizon Wireless began selling Aug. 12.
However, users with Android 2.2-based smartphones such as the original Motorola Droid, Google Nexus One, HTC Evo 4G must "download several app updates" from Android Market to use Voice Actions.
These include Voice Search, the Google Search widget and preferred music apps. These apps do not come pre-installed on those handsets.
Voice Actions for Android is very similar to technology Apple acquired from Siri in May, and to software from startup Vlingo.
Siri lets iPhone users book restaurant tables and buy movie tickets by speaking into their phone.