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China Mobile squares up to Siri with voice portal

How do you rate your chances in China now, Siri?

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China Mobile, is set to launch its own Siri-like voice assistant service on Wednesday, a move which will provide more unwelcome local competition for Apple in the world’s biggest smartphone market.

The carrier, which is the world’s largest by subscribers, will unveil its “intelligent voice portal” at its global developers conference in Guangzhou, according to Marbridge Daily.

The portal is apparently based on the YuDian voice assistant product from Chinese firm Anhui USTC iFlytek – the country’s most successful voice recognition firm – in which China Mobile took a 15 per cent stake back in August.

It will allow users to dial numbers and send texts, and listen to incoming calls and other information, as well as access other back-end services such as China Mobile’s 12580 information hotline which includes entertainment, travel, hotel and tourist info.

Although all-but unknown outside of China, USTC iFlytek, boasts an ecosystem of over 10,000 partners and developers and user numbers for its text-to-speech and voice recognition tech in the hundreds of millions.

The firm told The Reg it has the edge on Siri thanks to its native Chinese expertise – the tonal nature of the language of Mandarin and Cantonese making them particularly difficult to recognise.

It also boasted of its underlying ‘voice cloud’ platform which has now amassed a huge database of differently accented speech which can be used to make the services offered on top, such as YuDian, more accurate.

For its part, Siri will get another chance to win hearts and minds in the ultra-competitive China smartphone market with the launch of the iPhone 5, which is slated for December 15.

However, China Mobile has still not managed to reach an agreement with Apple, allowing rivals China Telecom and China Unicom to battle it out for the hard-earned cash of the country’s fanbois.

China Mobile couldn't immediately be reached for comment. ®

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