Friday, September 6, 2013

Siri, Oh Siri, Wherefore Art Thou?

On October 4, 2011, Apple launched the iPhone 4S.  In looking at this now, I realize that it was one day before the passing of Steve Jobs.  But that is not the point of this blog.  This piece is about Siri.

When the phone first came out, I wondered why it was not the iPhone 5 but rather the iPhone 4S.  It looked like they were introducing the iPhone 4.5.  What made the phone different from the 4?  There was a chipset, camera, and operating system upgrade.  What got the most buzz at the launch, however, was the S part of 4S.  The S stood for Siri which was dubbed and highly touted as a both a revolutionary and exclusive voice recognition personal assistant.  All one had to do was double click the main button, ask Siri a question, and a monotone female voice would answer your question or ask you more questions.  Siri seemed to be the voice interface we were all looking for since we were introduced to Hal in Stanley Kubrick's 2001:  A Space Odyssey.

Siri was downright revolutionary.  You ask it a question or give it a command and it calls people, looks up things on the internet, provides directions, etc. It seemed like a quantum leap forward and a game changer that would be in Apple’s favor.  The iPhone 4S sold 4 million units in the first four days it was offered.  It was very impressive.

Everyone was excited about Siri.  People that had the iPhone 4S would show people that didn't have the 4S just how Siri worked.  There were cool and kinda sassy answers Siri would give to lurid or risque questions.  Well, they were as cool and sassy as the monotone Siri would be.  It was a lot of fun and I looked forward to getting my first iPhone and was most definitely looking forward to using Siri… especially while driving.

I got my iPhone 4S in January of 2012.  It was indeed very cool.  It was very easy to get used to and it seemed to seamlessly integrate all my contacts and emails with two google apps accounts, a yahoo account, and another consulting company’s email.  I was impressed.  I used Siri  a lot for making calls.  She was not the best at understanding Armenian names though.  

It didn’t last.  I rarely use Siri these days and I never hear people talking about Siri.  Why?

Siri does not work that well.  She gets things wrong and confused often enough that I stopped using her as my personal assistant.  At first I thought it was my voice.  Perhaps I slurred words or had a lisp or something that I was not aware of.  I discounted that as I still use voice recognition regularly to dictate texts, emails, and the do searches using Google.  Hmmm….

I turned to a Google search, asking a simple question “Does Siri work?”  I found a article dated November 15, 2012 by Farhad Manjoo.  The title of the article is Siri Is a Gimmick and a Tease:  But Google Voice Search is getting close to fulfilling Apple’s broken promise.  Apparently so.  Per the article,

Siri let us down immediately. Her problems are manifold, but they all add up to something that would doom any assistant: She is profoundly unreliable. Yes, sometimes, depending on how you speak and what you ask, Siri will get exactly what you’re saying and deliver the correct answer. Those moments are delightful. They’re also rare.
I still like my iPhone 4S but it’s biggest advantage is simply that its battery lasts a lot longer than that of the iPhone 5.  Let’s see what the iPhone 6 brings to the table when it is launched next week.

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