Stupid Siri

Walt Mossberg, writing for Recode, has written an article entitled Why does Siri seem so dumb? He points out all the things that Siri gets wrong, and points out that Apple is losing ground in this area:

It seems to me that Apple has wasted its lead with Siri. And now Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and others are on the march.

I pointed out similar problems in a Macworld article in August. For me, Siri is a waste of time.

What I found most interesting, however, was John Gruber’s comment on Daring Fireball. He says:

These sort of glaring inconsistencies are almost as bad as universal failures. The big problem Apple faces with Siri is that when people encounter these problems, they stop trying. It feels like you’re wasting your time, and makes you feel silly or even foolish for having tried. I worry that even if Apple improves Siri significantly, people will never know it because they won’t bother trying because they were burned so many times before.

That’s a very important point. I don’t bother to use Siri unless I want to do math; it is quicker than using the calculator, at least if Siri gets it right. But I’ve found that using a Google search in Safari for the same thing – a calculation that I dictate to my iPhone – works even better.

I really don’t see any point in using Siri. I have yet to find one frictionless example of how it makes me save time.

24 thoughts on “Stupid Siri

  1. To me, Siri is very useful for some simple things that make my life easier. Multiple times per day, I set timed reminders with Siri. For example, I go ice skating for exercise. “At 1:10 PM, remind me to go skating.” Or I need to start dinner early so my son can make it to his evening class, etc.

    Same with the countdown timer. It is easier and faster to ask Siri to set a timer for n minutes than to find where the egg timer is today.

    Same with the shopping list. Suppose I find there is no soap in the basement bathroom: “Add liquid hand soap to my shopping list.”

    Would it be nice if Siri could answer any random factual question? Yes. But a web search with text-to-speech input works better at this point.

    • You must be one of those people who keeps his phone in his pocket all day. My brother is like that. But he’s a big guy and his iPhone 4S easily disappears into a pocket and is virtually indestructible. My iPhone 6, on the other hand, is a lot harder to fit comfortably into a pants pocket and would break if I sat on it so I can’t risk ever having it in a pants pocket. Thus it’s almost never with me when I’m at home and talking to Siri at work would disturb others so I never use it. I’m glad others find it useful.

  2. To me, Siri is very useful for some simple things that make my life easier. Multiple times per day, I set timed reminders with Siri. For example, I go ice skating for exercise. “At 1:10 PM, remind me to go skating.” Or I need to start dinner early so my son can make it to his evening class, etc.

    Same with the countdown timer. It is easier and faster to ask Siri to set a timer for n minutes than to find where the egg timer is today.

    Same with the shopping list. Suppose I find there is no soap in the basement bathroom: “Add liquid hand soap to my shopping list.”

    Would it be nice if Siri could answer any random factual question? Yes. But a web search with text-to-speech input works better at this point.

    • You must be one of those people who keeps his phone in his pocket all day. My brother is like that. But he’s a big guy and his iPhone 4S easily disappears into a pocket and is virtually indestructible. My iPhone 6, on the other hand, is a lot harder to fit comfortably into a pants pocket and would break if I sat on it so I can’t risk ever having it in a pants pocket. Thus it’s almost never with me when I’m at home and talking to Siri at work would disturb others so I never use it. I’m glad others find it useful.

  3. SIRI works very well if you speak so she can understand. It’s not like the TV commercials where you just talk to her conversationally.

    You need to be very clear. AND you need to pronounce the words properly. I’ve seen a difference in some accents skewing the results.

    I’m frequently amazed at my brother’s work with Siri — he’s been a middle school teacher for 35 years, and EVERY inquiry or demand of SIRI is absolutely correct. It’s amazing. I’m not so good because I have a tendency to slur words and not speak distinctly enough.

    If you’re having problems, work on your speech delivery. AND, consider that if SIRI is having problems understanding you . . . there’s a very good chance that others are too!

    🙂

    PS : as for not understanding any use for Siri comment above, consider my most important use is while driving. I guess that person texts, finds music, gets directions and makes calls, etc by hands on his phone while driving. !!!! NOT GOOD.

    • Read the Macworld article I link to above. All the screenshots show that Siri understood exactly what I said.

    • Insinuating that someone’s mumbling – simply because a piece of software doesn’t work for them – is a bit insulting. No?

      Also: isn’t it the point of an artificial “intelligence” that it’s able to ‘learn’ one’s speech pattern over time?

  4. SIRI works very well if you speak so she can understand. It’s not like the TV commercials where you just talk to her conversationally.

    You need to be very clear. AND you need to pronounce the words properly. I’ve seen a difference in some accents skewing the results.

    I’m frequently amazed at my brother’s work with Siri — he’s been a middle school teacher for 35 years, and EVERY inquiry or demand of SIRI is absolutely correct. It’s amazing. I’m not so good because I have a tendency to slur words and not speak distinctly enough.

    If you’re having problems, work on your speech delivery. AND, consider that if SIRI is having problems understanding you . . . there’s a very good chance that others are too!

    🙂

    PS : as for not understanding any use for Siri comment above, consider my most important use is while driving. I guess that person texts, finds music, gets directions and makes calls, etc by hands on his phone while driving. !!!! NOT GOOD.

    • Read the Macworld article I link to above. All the screenshots show that Siri understood exactly what I said.

    • Insinuating that someone’s mumbling – simply because a piece of software doesn’t work for them – is a bit insulting. No?

      Also: isn’t it the point of an artificial “intelligence” that it’s able to ‘learn’ one’s speech pattern over time?

  5. I use “where is ” all the time for instantly showing me her location in Find Friends.

    Also on my Apple Watch I use “set a timer for x minutes” and “message Fred” and other commands all the time.

    However, I agree that Siri could do lot more than she does currently.

  6. I use “where is ” all the time for instantly showing me her location in Find Friends.

    Also on my Apple Watch I use “set a timer for x minutes” and “message Fred” and other commands all the time.

    However, I agree that Siri could do lot more than she does currently.

  7. I use CarPlay in my car, and Siri is the primary way that you interact with it… There is NO text interaction.

    And Siri works perfectly. Whether it is responding to a text message, or asking for directions to an appointment, or making a phone call, or anything else, Siri is extremely useful.

  8. I use CarPlay in my car, and Siri is the primary way that you interact with it… There is NO text interaction.

    And Siri works perfectly. Whether it is responding to a text message, or asking for directions to an appointment, or making a phone call, or anything else, Siri is extremely useful.

  9. Car Play could be key. It is something of a ‘sleeper’ function: haven’t seen or heard anything much about it nor had success getting it working in my own car.

  10. Car Play could be key. It is something of a ‘sleeper’ function: haven’t seen or heard anything much about it nor had success getting it working in my own car.

  11. I use Siri a lot to take quick notes, adding things to my grocery list, for music playback and to set reminders. I’m currently on an eyedrops treatment, and it’s super practical to tell her to remind me hourly to take them. It’s much faster than setting the alarm manually.

    However: this is also where the limitations of her artificial intelligence start. I told her to remind me once every hour until 11pm to take my eyedrops, to which she replied that it’s not possible for her to remind me this frequently.
    This is a big deal! Apple is better than any other company at making their devices accessible for people with disabilities and health issues. Yet it’s not possible for Siri to remind you once every hour to take your medication? I have to tell her to “remind me in an hour” after each time I take my eyedrops. It’s still practical, but unnecessarily inconvenient.

    I also like her for music playback. My iPhone’s my main music player and it’s connected to several wireless speakers at home via Airplay or Bluetooth. It’s much faster to just tell Siri what I want to listen to, than to meticulously search for it in the Music App. However: unless I tell her VERY clearly what I ‘exactly’ want to listen to, she either bugs, plays something COMPLETELY different or starts a dreaded internet search.
    For example: “I’m in the mood for Bowie’s Earthling” will give me search results for “Flying through Orbit”. Only when I talk to her like a simpleton – “Play David Bowie album Earthling” – will I get what I asked for.
    The BIGGEST annoyance: by default she will stream from Apple Music. It doesn’t matter if I have the album downloaded in my library, she WILL stream it. Maybe there is a way to change the default setting for her playback behavior, but I have not yet found it.

    Oh, and Siri in any other language but (American) English is a dumbster fire. For example: if Siri is set to German, she will ONLY understand German. Including song titles! Unless you only exlusively listen to German speaking musicians (incidentally: I don’t), music playback with Siri is completely broken.

  12. I use Siri a lot to take quick notes, adding things to my grocery list, for music playback and to set reminders. I’m currently on an eyedrops treatment, and it’s super practical to tell her to remind me hourly to take them. It’s much faster than setting the alarm manually.

    However: this is also where the limitations of her artificial intelligence start. I told her to remind me once every hour until 11pm to take my eyedrops, to which she replied that it’s not possible for her to remind me this frequently.
    This is a big deal! Apple is better than any other company at making their devices accessible for people with disabilities and health issues. Yet it’s not possible for Siri to remind you once every hour to take your medication? I have to tell her to “remind me in an hour” after each time I take my eyedrops. It’s still practical, but unnecessarily inconvenient.

    I also like her for music playback. My iPhone’s my main music player and it’s connected to several wireless speakers at home via Airplay or Bluetooth. It’s much faster to just tell Siri what I want to listen to, than to meticulously search for it in the Music App. However: unless I tell her VERY clearly what I ‘exactly’ want to listen to, she either bugs, plays something COMPLETELY different or starts a dreaded internet search.
    For example: “I’m in the mood for Bowie’s Earthling” will give me search results for “Flying through Orbit”. Only when I talk to her like a simpleton – “Play David Bowie album Earthling” – will I get what I asked for.
    The BIGGEST annoyance: by default she will stream from Apple Music. It doesn’t matter if I have the album downloaded in my library, she WILL stream it. Maybe there is a way to change the default setting for her playback behavior, but I have not yet found it.

    Oh, and Siri in any other language but (American) English is a dumbster fire. For example: if Siri is set to German, she will ONLY understand German. Including song titles! Unless you only exlusively listen to German speaking musicians (incidentally: I don’t), music playback with Siri is completely broken.

  13. I’ve been using Siri since it was an independent app prior to Apple’s acquisition. Each year I am using it less. The reason is that as it adds more functionality, it’s flaws become more irritating. Here was Siri on my ride home yesterday:
    Me: How long will it take me to get home?
    Siri: I don’t understand “How long will it take.”
    Me: How much time will it take me to get home?
    One minute later
    Siri: I can’t seem to make the connection. Try again in a few minutes.
    I try again a few minutes later:
    Siri: I can’t seem to make the connection. Try again in a few minutes.
    A few minutes later:
    Me: Call John Doe’s mobile
    Siri: I cannot find Josh Stone in your contacts
    Me: Set an appointment for me to call John tonight at 8pm
    30 seconds later
    Siri: I set an appointment for you take out the trash tomorrow at 8. Shall I schedule it?
    After giving up hope of getting anything done:
    Me: Play music by Buddy Miller
    Music: John Coltrane
    Me: How much time will it take me to get home?
    Siri: The traffic to you home is about average, so I’m estimating about 25 minutes.
    I arrive home 45 minutes later .

    Sometimes Siri works great. Many times, it’s just frustrating.

  14. I’ve been using Siri since it was an independent app prior to Apple’s acquisition. Each year I am using it less. The reason is that as it adds more functionality, it’s flaws become more irritating. Here was Siri on my ride home yesterday:
    Me: How long will it take me to get home?
    Siri: I don’t understand “How long will it take.”
    Me: How much time will it take me to get home?
    One minute later
    Siri: I can’t seem to make the connection. Try again in a few minutes.
    I try again a few minutes later:
    Siri: I can’t seem to make the connection. Try again in a few minutes.
    A few minutes later:
    Me: Call John Doe’s mobile
    Siri: I cannot find Josh Stone in your contacts
    Me: Set an appointment for me to call John tonight at 8pm
    30 seconds later
    Siri: I set an appointment for you take out the trash tomorrow at 8. Shall I schedule it?
    After giving up hope of getting anything done:
    Me: Play music by Buddy Miller
    Music: John Coltrane
    Me: How much time will it take me to get home?
    Siri: The traffic to you home is about average, so I’m estimating about 25 minutes.
    I arrive home 45 minutes later .

    Sometimes Siri works great. Many times, it’s just frustrating.

  15. I’m in the John Gruber boat. I’ve given up. It/Siri just doesn’t get Aussie language and accent. We’re too nasal or something. I try really simple things but it never works seamlessly, so don’t use it at all, and now can’t be bothered trying, which is a great shame.

  16. I’m in the John Gruber boat. I’ve given up. It/Siri just doesn’t get Aussie language and accent. We’re too nasal or something. I try really simple things but it never works seamlessly, so don’t use it at all, and now can’t be bothered trying, which is a great shame.

  17. I lead a company that has advises tens of thousands of people on their choice of productivity tools. I was once a dyed-in-the-wool iPhone user because of the ease of use for new apps. No more.

    Siri’s outrageous dictation errors make my iPhone impossible to trust. It will not learn, there’s been no discernable improvement in years. It regularly translates my speaking into nonsensical words and phrases that no intelligent being would use in English. It persists no matter how carefully I pronounce or how many corrections I make. Some dictionary errors (converting “pages” to “Pagès”) happen with OCD determination in spite of hundreds of attempts to correct the autocorrection.

    So, I’m preparing to wholesale switch to Android. Once I do it—if I feel any sense of relief and liberation (“finally free of Siri!”)—getting me back will be almost impossible.

    Any question what we’ll recommend in the future?

  18. I lead a company that has advises tens of thousands of people on their choice of productivity tools. I was once a dyed-in-the-wool iPhone user because of the ease of use for new apps. No more.

    Siri’s outrageous dictation errors make my iPhone impossible to trust. It will not learn, there’s been no discernable improvement in years. It regularly translates my speaking into nonsensical words and phrases that no intelligent being would use in English. It persists no matter how carefully I pronounce or how many corrections I make. Some dictionary errors (converting “pages” to “Pagès”) happen with OCD determination in spite of hundreds of attempts to correct the autocorrection.

    So, I’m preparing to wholesale switch to Android. Once I do it—if I feel any sense of relief and liberation (“finally free of Siri!”)—getting me back will be almost impossible.

    Any question what we’ll recommend in the future?

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