Siri not ready for prime time, but shows promise

Discussion in 'iOS 5 and earlier' started by Gregintosh, Oct 23, 2011.

  1. Gregintosh, Oct 23, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2011

    Gregintosh macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    I guess the Beta label is very appropriate for Siri. It is just not ready for prime time. Some of the biggest issues are:

    - Reliability: Tons of server side issues. When I click the siri Button I don't know if I will get to use it or if it will just fail to connect to the server.

    For Siri to be a SERIOUS feature it needs to be reliable 99.9% of the time, not 50/50 or even 90/10. Even 10% downtime is too much for a feature that people are going to rely on once they start using it daily.

    They need to boost Siri's capacity and improve uptime significantly before this becomes a feature you can say you really have. For now I will be telling people "occasionally, I can even use my voice to control my phone!"

    - Need to read the screen. What is annoying about Siri is that it cannot read everything back to you, such as e-mails or certain results like the weather. The main point of Siri as shown in ads is that if you have vision impairments or you are driving or running (all situations where reading the screen IS NOT an option) you can use Siri to use your phone. FALSE.

    In reality, while Siri can read texts back to you, it cannot read e-mails. It also does not read back any Yelp or Wolfram alpha results, which is about 80% of its usefulness. It cannot read your reminders either (so you can't ask "what reminders are due today?" and hear back an answer).

    This feature is most lacking when you are driving and looking for a place to eat. Siri will pull up burger joints for you but it will not tell you the names, and it will not let you pick one to get directions to. Finally, there is no turn by turn directions so it won't guide you how to get there.

    Having Siri read you the choices and then letting you pick one verbally, then guiding you how to get there would really round out the experience and make it indispensable for drivers. For now, Siri while Driving is purely for passengers who can look at the phone and that's a shame because they're 90% of the way there.

    My understanding is you can enable something in accessibility settings, but then I believe the phone will read EVERYTHING all the time, not just for Siri, which would get annoying fast, and I don't know that this works for all the things mentioned above.

    My ideal use case for Siri will be this winter. Chicago has harsh winters and I want to be able to use my phone outside without ever taking it out. This would give the phone a serious edge over competitors and really improve my user experience. It is not possible with Siri 1.0.

    Come to think of it, the more I use it the more traditional voice control like found on competitors and even the non-Siri iPhone seem like serious alternatives to Siri. Since the features those other voice controls do are really the only features Siri does pretty reliably (when it can connect to a network), where as everything else is really up in the air.

    - Inconsistent answers & Wrong responses. I can ask Siri how many calories in a Subway Beef & Steak sandwich and get a Wolfram Alpha response. But If I ask how many calories in a Granny Smith Apple you get prompted to just do a Google search. If it recognizes some foods, why not others?

    (And again, it won't read these answers to me as mentioned above, so I still have to take my phone out of my pocket and look at it, so all Siri really does is save me the hassle of typing on the keyboard what my search is).

    Also, Siri can tell me how many days there are until Christmas, but won't tell me how many days until my wife's birthday. That seems like a pretty simple algorithm (assuming you have the birthday programmed in the contacts card).

    Also, podcast control is TERRIBLE. Siri has no problem playing songs by album, artist, song, etc. but try getting it to play a specific podcast episode. It recognizes it when I say "Play Tech News Today podcast" and plays the file. But if I have multiple episodes and try to say something like "Play the latest episode of Tech News Today" or "Play Tech News today from October 15th" it will not play or recognize. Why can't it just look up the Tech News Today podcast on my phone and pick the file that was created most recently to play? It doesn't seem like a very complicated algorithm would be required to interpret "the latest episode" (if they can get it to recognize when you say the best to mean sort by rating, why not the latest meaning the newest created file?).

    Even adding episode "number XXX" it will not recognize it. Also, saying "The Tech News Today" podcast immediately makes it not recognize it. You think if it understood the meaning of your words it would know that the word "the" is commonly put in front of titles and it would ignore it or assume what comes after is the name of the podcast but nope. "Cannot find "The Tech News Today podcast" is the response, but say it without the "the" and it works fine.

    Its these little touches that normally set Apple products apart from the competition, but this time they are heavily lacking. It seems like Apple spent more time making sure Siri knows a few clever responses to naughty questions than writing algorithms for calculating something useful or interpreting common requests.

    - Limits on functionality. Since Siri is closed up, there is a very finite amount of things you can really do with it. It also does not know the answers to many questions. It can't even fully control all the Apple apps. For example, despite Twitter integration you can't use Siri to tweet directly (without a workaround using SMS). If there's one Social Network that Siri should be able to access directly its Twitter which is integrated at the OS-level.

    So despite these criticism there is some hope of course.

    Siri is Beta, so its interpretations will improve over time. We can also hope that over time Apple will add more functionality to Siri and roll it out to everyone since they are server-side. Tweeting, calculating days until people's birthdays or calendar events, etc. Hopefully they'll also get a grip on the server side issues and make Siri reliable. If I have a data connection it should work ALL the time.

    Ideally, some functions like iPod controls or things that don't need data to be fulfilled could be done on the phone and therefore have Siri work even without a data connection, but I am sure that won't come until version 3 or 4.

    Hopefully they will also make Siri truly a hands-free service. This will make it indispensable for drivers, and far more useful for people with disabilities or people who just don't want to take their iPhones out of their pockets (which can be dangerous to do in some neighborhoods and trains in Chicago, for example).

    The main advantage that Siri has over competitors is that it seems to get at the meaning of the words rather than just interpret commands, but ultimately its what Apple does with that capability that will set it apart.

    For now, it is marginally more impressive than Android or Windows Phone voice commands (since you can ask it for the weather in 5 different ways, where as with those competitors you have to ask for the weather in the way the phone wants to be asked instead).

    But in the future I have no doubt in my mind that Siri and Siri-like competitors will be STANDARD features. I am thinking sooner than later. I bet by the end of 2012 every premium smartphone will have this and it isn't going away.
  2. gentlefury macrumors 68030

    Jul 21, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    well said. This is the first time apple decided to beta test with the masses. I think they made this decision because, siri, being an AI needs as much varied input as possible to function better. So, what you will notice is that the longer it exists the better it will get at piecing together clues. I'm sure in iOS 6 they will probably release the API and push it to all iOS devices too.
  3. boomhower macrumors 68000


    Oct 21, 2011
    Agreed, it has promise but isn't there yet. I know they say it's in "beta" but something that is truly beta doesn't have multimillion dollar marketing campaigns centered on it. I have a feeling it is going to mature quickly and get to where it needs to be.
  4. Gregintosh thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    I think the reason they rolled it out in beta is because you need millions of people playing with it to perfect it. Right now there are probably hundreds if not thousands of engineers analyzing all the silly things we say to it so that they can use that info to make Siri better and better.

    By the time android rolls out an alternative that competes with the current iteration of siri (read: buggy and unstable, limited) Siri will be miles ahead. Kind of like how tablets are playing catchup to the iPad a year and a half later.

    But like I said originally, it's still beta and it certainly earns that label. My advice for people thinking of upgrading just for Siri is that you really aren't missing much yet.

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