Why iPhone 4S Siri-ously Doesn't Live Up to the Hype

Why iPhone 4S Siri-ously Doesn't Live Up to the Hype

Chris Perez
Oct 27, 2011

We joined the over 4 million people last weekend and picked up an iPhone 4S. And like others who bought this phone we fed into the hype of the "Let's Talk iPhone" event. We were tantalized by Cupertino's latest innovation (Siri) and the idea of a real personal assistant to help set reminders, text the wife, guide us to the nearest sushi restaurant...it all seemed perfect...maybe too perfect...

When our iPhone arrived in the mail we were ready to put Siri through the paces and already had ideas on how she was going to change the way we do things. We spent some good quality time with Siri alright, but unlike all the other blogs and reviews you've probably read it's not all roses. In fact, we're here to break it to you straight, and tell you that Siri doesn't live up to the hype. Here's why....

1. Siri doesn't get me
Our first thought was that the voice-to-action dynamic would be ideal for the car.

Example: Imagine you're driving with attention on the road, and suddenly find inspiration or need to take an action requiring the phone. Simple. Just hold down the Home button and beckon Siri to jot down some notes and reminders. Pretty basic, not too demanding. Siri should be able to handle that, right?


In fact, we attempted to take 48 notes while driving from Austin to Dallas this weekend and you know how many of them made sense when we returned home to review? Eight. Yeah, the ocho.

Not a very good percentage, especially when you realize the notes that didn't "make sense" were really indecipherable nonsense.

Here's a few that we found the most amusing...

"Take it up the gift to Brad" is our personal favorite. Since this was our last reminder we know we were trying to set a reminder to "Call Cynthia when I get to my Parent's house."

And you thought the iPhone predictive text was bad?

*Note: we consider ourselves fairly well-spoken individuals, without strong accents, and no issues with people understanding our speech.

2. Siri is impatient
Siri doesn't like to give you much time to formulate a thought. She'll shut you out mid-sentence or just turn her head and stop talking to you in a conversation.

Something like "Take a note that says....I hope Siri can do dictation well" will leave you hearing the Siri beep at that half second pause you made while trying to figure how exactly you wanted to phrase something. So you can't hesitate with her.

Maybe the whole reason all the voice stuff hasn't worked so well before is because we do things differently in speech compared with typing. When we type we have a few extra seconds to formulate a thought, compose things in our head, and those seconds are lost when trying to do voice commands. It's just not natural. We've been typing on keyboards for most of our lives but giving voice commands is something that's just come about the past few years. Maybe we'll adapt, but we're not quite convinced yet.

3. Siri has over-protective parents
We understand she's never been kissed (aka "in beta") but Siri's parent's are strict and a bit tought to deal with. No talking or playing with strangers (3rd party apps) and no doing anything besides previously approved activities (basically anything you didn't see them do at the press conference).

We're sure they'll lighten up soon. But it's a bit of buzzkill when you realize that cool date you had in mind isn't an approved activity by the house of Apple.

4. Siri is kind of lazy
It seems Siri doesn't want to go through a heck of a lot of effort to help you out. If she thinks a request you ask for requires more than one or two steps, she'll shut the door on you. You want to call somebody (or someplace)? They better be listed as a contact because Siri isn't going to do a search for you and find it. (We actually could get Siri to do a search for some places, but it was like 1 in 10 and we haven't quite figured out the logic of what she can and can't find yet).

You'll also find that Siri won't look up opening and closing times for places yet, and even worse she won't continue dialogue in many conversations.

Some examples of our turmoil...

Unplggd: What's a good Italian restaurant in the area?
Siri: Here are italian restaurants I found for you...
Unplggd: OK, call the nearest one.
Siri: Sorry, I'm one and done.
Unplggd: D'oh!

Of course, Apple is all hush-hush about what Siri can and can't do. So here's a picture of Siri's limitations we've uncovered from our experience...

Things with a big red "X" on them are not supported, and we circled "Reminders" in green, because that's the only app that'll let you make an action with options. As in, do that action sometime in the future, or at a specific place. All other apps require you to make that action immediately. No texting someone when you arrive somewhere.

Final Thoughts
So thats a summary of our first week with Siri, and needless to say our relationship status officially changed to "its complicated."

Maybe we just need to see other people for a little bit and have some time to learn what we want from each other. Perhaps one day we'll work through our differences, each make some concessions, and end up at a happy medium.

We also realize that the mere fact Apple has us thinking about interacting with the phone in new ways, is a bit of a game changer. The product just isn't quite there yet and the hype has gotten ahead of the truth (for now). But, call us optimistic, or even dreamers, because we're not ruling out true love just yet.

Here's to wishing.

All photos by Chris Perez

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