Google Now and Siri were both able to answer 79% of queries in recent test. A year earlier, Google Now scored 61% while Siri got 77% correct.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Google's voice-based search service, Google Now, has improved enough in the past year to rival Apple's Siri, although both technologies still need work, according to test results released Tuesday.

Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, asked Google Now and Siri 800 questions this month and tracked how well they understood them and whether they came up with useful responses. Munster then compared the results to a similar test he ran a year ago.

Google Now got a C+ grade, up from D- a year earlier, while Siri got a C+ compared to a C grade last year, the analyst reported.

"Google Now has improved significantly over last year, refining both its ability to comprehend questions as well as give a correct response," Munster wrote in a note to investors. He lifted his price target on Google stock to $1,263 from $985.

Apple and Google are pouring time and money into voice-recognition technology because it is becoming more important as people use smartphones more to search for things when they are out and about. In these situations, speaking a query into a phone is easier than stopping to type it into a small touch screen.

Google Now is much better at picking out a user's voice in "uncontrolled environments" than it was a year ago. There's also been a 9 percentage point improvement in Google Now's ability to answer questions correctly when it recognizes the question, Munster said.

Google Now and Siri were both able to answer 79% of queries in the most recent test. A year earlier, Google Now scored 61% while Siri got 77% correct, according to the analyst's tests.

Still, Munster's test was not all good news for Google. The analyst found that Apple has almost completely eliminated Google search from the results that Siri provides. Siri's reliance on Google decreased from 27% of answers in December 2012 to 4% now, he noted.

Instead, Siri uses Microsoft's Bing, another search engine called WolframAlpha and Wikipedia for most of its answers, Munster said.

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