Are we over-criticizing Siri?

Honestly, is Siri really that bad for what most people do? Siri seems to have improved significantly over the past few years, and even then, she was still fairly competent.

What do you think? Many people have already brought up good points.

Yes, IMO Siri is horrible. Just a couple of nights ago the dinner conversation was about what temperature water boils at at a certain altitude. I tried with many different ways of getting it from Siri and never once could I get Siri to answer the real question. The same query to google got a nice chart with all the changes in temperature at various altitudes at the first try. It’s like that all the time. I’ve never had Siri ever get an answer I am looking for on the first try yet I can type in the exact same message into a Safari search and google search gets it nearly always in the first or second hit.

Then there is the whole homonym thing. You’d think that after many corrections that Siri would automatically assume that I mean ewe most of the time and flip sthe defaults o that if I do really mean you I have to change it but no, Every. Single. Time. Siri assumes you. And the whole time vs numbers thing too. ALL of the time I try to enter in numbers Siri tries to change them into either times or a phone number.

Siri is basically worthless to me. If I do have touse it I had also better stop as soon as my hands are free to correct it or later when I try to interpret the reminders I’ll never understand the gobbledegook that Siri turns even the most mundane note into.

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Siri is unusable for me. It is (subjectively) beyond terrible. This isn’t because Apple has produced an unusable product that’s so bad it’s beyond terrible; it’s because Apple has presented a mediocre product as an intelligent voice-activated assistant that can do the (reasonable) things that I ask it to do.

I generally use two examples to illustrate my opinion of Siri, both of them when I’m in my car:

When I’m driving, it would be unbelievably useful for me to be able to deal with music via voice commands. I have purely touch-screen based CarPlay (Honda’s implementation from 2017) and scrolling through a long list of artists is less than ideal. It would be so nice to be able to ask Siri to bring up all the albums from a given artist, but it is unable to do so.

The limitation isn’t as bad as the failed expectation that it should work. I never know whether or not something that I reasonably expect an intelligent assistant to be able to handle is something that Siri can do, and so I bypass Siri nearly 100% of the time.

This is in contrast with the “native” voice interface that Honda provides. It’s very primitive and accepts only fixed voice commands from a list that’s presented on the screen. But as primitive as it is, it’s very clear about what it can do, and it works nearly 100% of the time. Therefore I use it for the things that it can do.

Apple presents Siri as an assistant that you just talk to. To me, by the metric of just do what I want, an assistant had better be nearly 100% effective. If my assistant doesn’t understand what I want then I expect to have a meaningful conversation with them/it until we’re both reasonable sure that we have a mutual understanding. Siri cannot manage this, though Apple gives the impression that it can.

Under-delivery in this space is a fatal flaw.

(This is of course, my opinion about how Siri works (or doesn’t) for me. I understand that others find Siri very useful and their opinions are at least as valid as mine :slight_smile: )

Siri had a four year head start on Amazon’s Alexa and a six year jump on the Google assistant, but it is now in third place. I had high hopes when I downloaded the original Siri app in 2010, but Apple squandered its lead and I’ve given up hope that Siri will ever live up to its potential.

I use Siri to add reminders, read & reply to text messages, and add things to my shopping list. It does those things reasonably well on my IOS devices. But if I ask “HomePod Siri” what’s on my calendar, odds are she will answer “Who’s speaking?” And if I ask a general information question while working hands free, I frequently get “here’s what I found on the web”. So I don’t even bother asking. IMO, verbal questions should always be answered with verbal answers.

Some time ago, the Google Assistant received an option that allows me to ask as many as three questions per session. I use that feature all the time. For example “Ok Google, turn off TV, play MacPowerUsers podcast on Samsung. Set volume to 60%.” How hard is that to program?

I have no idea why Siri is so limited, but I suspect it has to do with Apple’s desire to do everything on device. If that’s the problem I doubt my iPhone will ever be able to match Google’s millions of servers. There are things I try to keep private and that’s one reason I prefer IOS. But there are many things I cannot keep private, like my location, what programs I watch, where I shop and what I buy, etc. So I have no problem using whichever digital assistant does the best job as long as it does not have access to that I prefer to keep secure. Most of the time that isn’t Siri.

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Almost the entire after-show of last week’s episode of Connected (unfortunately only available to “Connected Pro” subscribers) was about how much worse Siri performs vs Alexa.

I believe that Jason Snell & Myke Hurley have talked about it multiple times on Upgrade and Dan Moren & Lex Friedman have talked about it at length on The Rebound.

From all of their comments, Siri is slower, less accurate, and worse at answering questions and queries.

Conclusion: No, we aren’t over-criticizing Siri. Siri is bad because Apple has apparently paid the bare minimum amount of attention to it over the years, for whatever reason.

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no. Siri is horrible.

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Yes and no. Some things it does well, but when Siri falls down it really falls down hard.

The main problem to me is that it drops requests all over the ground, so it almost becomes worse than “nothing at all”. When you give something to Siri and you have to (in GTD parlance) follow up to make sure it got done, that’s BAD on all levels.

For example…

Driving down the road. This is a prime opportunity for me to use Siri to add an event to my calendar.

Me: “Hey Siri, add ‘call girlfriend’ to my calendar for 3:30 pm today.”
Siri: “Just a sec.”
Siri (a bit later): “I’m on it.”
Siri: (drops request, never mentions it again)

It’s probably an Internet connectivity issue when this happens, but the fact that I have to burn my mental cycles keeping track of this thing that I’ve effectively dictated / delegated in case it doesn’t do what it just said it would do is infuriating. It would be a non-issue if it was one in a thousand times, but it’s way, way more than that.

There may or may not be a message on my phone screen to let me know that something went wonky with Siri - but honestly…I just dictated to Siri. What are the odds that I’m staring directly at my phone screen? It can’t at least read me the error, in the same way that it told me “I’m on it”?

Compare that to…

Me: (Taps watch button to open Drafts, clicks big microphone)
Me: “add ‘call girlfriend’ to my calendar for 3:30 pm today.”
Me: (clicks button to stop recording)

yields a near-perfect transcription of that in Drafts. Which I later have to transfer to my calendar, but it’s there. Guaranteed. Every time.

Drafts uses Apple’s on-device speech recognition, but Siri refuses to - instead preferring to throw away the request, sometimes silently.

And that’s borderline inexcusable. Especially when it uses human phrases that would seem to reassure me that it did, in fact, hear me and is working on doing what I asked.

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I always thought that Siri was bad because it had no memory of previous interactions and thus couldn’t learn. This all part of Apple’s privacy policy. I don’t use Goggle’s assistant but use Google search, and it knows so much about me that it seems to uncannily predict what I will ask (usually takes two or three letters before it suggests, correctly, the rest of my query).

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I just use it for very basic stuff. “Turn on lights”. “Set alarm”. Seeing the feedback on it’s performance…I will keep it this way.

Siri is really frustratingly slow… “I’m working on it…” “uh oh- something went wrong…”

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I switched to Janet. Never looked back.

#thegoodplace

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I’m going to drop a few screenshots in to show how useful Siri is…

I do use it to set timers sometimes, but even that’s not foolproof:

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Siri can be maddening. In my car I must use Bluetooth because I don’t have CarPlay. I say ‘Hey Siri’ to ask her to play a station or album and half the time she says…’uh…there’s a problem.’ Yeah - a broken Siri.

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Yes, but I would like to bet that Siri collects little to no data compared to Google Assistant, which collects heaps of data. It is a double edged sword. Do you want your data to be collected to make a product much better, or do you not want your data to be collected, resulting in a worse product?

Wow! I didn’t think most people had a burning hate for Siri. Part of me hopes that Apple can turn things around with the neural engine.

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Most of the data people try to protect is already widely available through legitimate sources. The only truly confidential data on my iPhone and iPad is in 1Password.

So the data Google may collect is the same as that already known to others. And it is much less valuable than the data Equifax and others have already leaked to the entire planet.

Yes, if that’s the only way I can get a useful digital assistant.

And for the record, I don’t hate Siri. I’m disappointed, like someone who sees a brilliant student who never lived up to their potential.

Okay Sundar Pichai! Give it up! :laughing:

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It’s not just the difference in the quantity and quality of aggregated data the engines are using. Siri will never have as many well-resourced engineers as Google has on its search engine. Just as Google will never have as many engineers on the Pixel phones as Apple on the iPhone. Critical core products must get the most attention.

When I tried this, they both linked to the same Wikipedia article - but Google abstracted the chart from that. The issue was the (re)presentation of the data, not the quality of the voice recognition.

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No, when I asked Siri the answer I got was that the temperture of boiling water at 6210 feet was 60 thousand something degrees. Total inability to understand the question.

Apple does send all Siri data off-device though already, and some of it actually gets reviewed by humans. So it’s not as private as some people would like to think.

The question to me is whether it would be required to have this data “off device”. I mean…can’t Siri just (for example) learn from me, on my device? Or come up with some sort of super-encrypted iCloud sync where only I can access the data?

I’m not sure that the contents of all one’s Internet activity are necessarily available via other sources - which is the main thing I care about having private.

But I absolutely agree otherwise - address, phone number, birthday, all that can be bought directly from the government agencies that I’m required to give it to. :slight_smile:

Absolutely. It kind of feels like if Apple cared deeply about the product, it would be further along by now.