My iPhone 4S, and its friend Siri
by Lynda Foster
The iPhone 4S had record setting pre-orders, but you could still find it around town the Saturday after its release date (especially if you were looking for a Verizon phone. My need for AT&T slowed down the pace). People appear to be forgiving Apple for not giving us the iPhone 5 we craved. I think it’s more likely that over the last 18 months with no new phone, people’s iPhone 3Gs were on their last set of legs, and we really would have bought anything that Apple threw at us.
Don’t get me wrong, Apple threw in some cool features to make you interested in this device, and prove that it’s better than the ho-hum iPhone 4. It has a better camera, faster internet and processing speeds, some other things, but we all know the biggest buzz was around the iPhone 4S’s Siri feature – its personal assistant that you can talk to and that will listen as accurately and attentively as any ESL student. Huzzah, Apple says, you can just tell your phone to schedule you a meeting and it will do it!
I can say with 98% sincerity that I don’t give a hoot about Siri. I paid the extra money to switch to the iPhone 4S (rather than the iPhone 4′s $99 version) because I wanted a better camera. And while I sifted through the problems that make up my cellular life for three and a half failed hours Friday night, and then another two hours Saturday morning (different stores, different reasons. It’s a very long, complicated story that was eventually solved with AT&T agreeing to waive some charges and take $89.99 off my first phone bill). But despite all that, I knew it was worth it! I would have my iPhone 4S opening weekend, and then be able to write a blog post on the hilarity that most be able to be drawn from the Siri feature!
So, after successfully transferring 62 contacts and 758 pictures from my iPhone 3Gs to my iPhone 4S (and trading in the former for $115 off the latter – Go RadioShack!) I trotted off with new-phone glee. It was shiny, and it wasn’t futzing out like my two-and-a-half-year-old sold-back POS. Life was good. I called up my boyfriend and was like “Let’s get lunch.”
At lunch I pulled out the instructions (because how to use the Siri feature isn’t actually intuitive) and followed the directions to hold down the home button (the only button) and waited until the Siri screen popped up.
I won’t lie. I started with a boring question.
“Schedule a lunch meeting tomorrow at noon with Josh.”
It replied (in the voice of the iPhone cat): “Which Josh?” and listed out the Josh’s in my contact list. I choose appropriately, and it provided the appropriate calendar entry. “Okay, I set up your meeting for tomorrow. Are you ready for me to schedule it?”
I canceled and tried something else. “Find me an Italian restaurant in Tacoma.”
“I found 22 Italian restaurants; tap the one you want to call.” It showed a comprehensive list of restaurants nearby, how far they are away from me, and their rating (out of 5 stars).
Indeed, it was good at everything the Apple guys did up on screen during the demo.
I canceled and tried something else “Which vet can I get to to declaw my cat” (I don’t want to declaw my cat, I wanted to see if it could differentiate between vets).
Response: I don’t see ‘Cat’ in your address book. Should I look for businesses by that name?”
I tried again, it said the same thing, so I tried a different question: “Find a vet I can go to to declaw my cat.”
Response: “Sorry, I can’t check your call history.”
Well, I suppose it’s good to know Siri can’t check my call history. Moving on.
“Where can I buy a dinosaur?”
Response: “Searching the web for ‘Where can I buy a dinosaur.’” Sure enough, a Google search popped up. According to Google, you can buy a dinosaur on Amazon.
Question: “How do I stop the bleeding?”
Response: “I found six hospitals fairly close to you.” Siri also provided a list of the hospitals, their rating, and how far they are from me. One is only .2 miles!
Question: “Where is the nearest magic store?”
Response: “I found two magicians that live a ways from you.” They live 22 and 25 miles away, to be precise.
Question: “What’s the meaning of life?” (I took a screen shot of the other question to share with you).
Response: “I find it odd that you would ask this of an inanimate object.”
And since we were driving down the freeway while I was doing this, and right as I was starting to talk to Siri a small car cut across a wide barrier to cut us off… my angry boyfriend said “@#$)@#%*@$$@, thanks Buddy!”
Siri said “I live to serve.”
Other potential responses for “Thanks Buddy,” you wonder?
“I aim to please.”
“My pleasure, as always.”
“Just doing my job.”
To Siri: “Are you capable of sarcasm?”
Response: “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t answer that.”
Anywho, my point didn’t really need to be said. Apple made the best voice recognition system (it kicks ass at understanding the words “Italian Restaurants”), and after about an hour of fooling around with it I’m pretty convinced it doesn’t suck. But, as many internet memes will show you, unless you’re limiting your interacting with Siri to setting up pasta dinners and using simple sentence constructions, it’s not really practical for the average person. Sure, the various tests we did of its system (Find the nearest Pokémon Gym) were not designed for it to succeed (there are six gyms nearby you), but rather to prove the point that it did not distinguish what the word “Pokémon” meant, or the fact that we were mocking it.
Also, it takes like three seconds for me to go in and schedule my own damn appointment at noon, without fear of error in voice recognition software (I spoke in a text message to my boyfriend that went “I heart you!” but what was sent was “I hurt you!”). As I said to every AT&T person who asked, no I don’t really care about this system. It does not appear to be life changing. It doesn’t even appear like it will moderately impact my life.
However, it did provide me an afternoon of fun. Here is what Siri and I had to discuss: