On their website, Apple describes Siri this way:
Siri on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it.
I’ve found that last part to be very true – I do keep finding new ways to use it, because it’s incredibly awesome and I wish I could apply its awesomeness to everything I do. Siri has made every day tasks and functions on my phone 100% easier. In fact, functions I didn’t bother doing before because they took too long, or I was driving when I needed to do them, are now as easy to accomplish as talking to a friend. Anyone who thought it would be too awkward or embarrassing to use Siri in public has not used it yet. And anyone who thought it would be just as lame as every other voice control feature out there, is just dead wrong.
I’ve found most things you tell Siri to do, it can do. You rarely have to repeat yourself or phrase it a different way. You never have to slowly and phonetically spell out words or names. Talking to Siri is fluid and comfortable, just like talking to a real person. Even the dictation part, where you can speak anytime you would normally use a keyboard, is damn near perfect. My text messages and emails will actually be in complete sentences from now on.
However, as I use it more and more, I have found some limitations. To be fair, Siri is still in beta. No this isn’t “Google Beta” where every new product is in beta for 5 years. Apple takes their products seriously, and usually doesn’t launch something until its perfect. The fact that they launched Siri before they were comfortable enough to say it was perfect, tells you that they have big things in store for Siri.
My Siri WishList
Because another post about how awesome Siri is would be annoying, here’s my one and only post on Siri’s limitations and what I wish they would change or add as they develop it:
Siri Cannot Call 9-1-1
If you say to Siri, “Call 555-1212.” it will start dialing the number for you. However, if you say “Call 9-1-1,” Siri starts dialing the number, then responds with, “I’m sorry JD, I cannot call 9-1-1.” What’s odd is that if you say, “Call the police,” it starts calling 9-1-1, but then interrupts with the same message saying that it can’t dial that for you. This is a huge disappointment. Has Apple blocked Siri from calling 9-1-1 for liability reasons, perhaps? It’s a shame, because pushing the home button and saying “Call 9-1-1″ is a lot quicker and easier than unlocking your phone, finding the phone app, clicking the dial pad, typing in 9-1-1 then hitting the Call button. By that time I could be hacked to bits. It’s obvious that the functionality is built into it (it knows that the police are found at 9-1-1 for example, and it’s able to dial a phone number after you dictate the numbers.) so it’s a mystery why they won’t let Siri complete the call.
Recently we’ve been trying to teach our 4 year old how to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. We don’t have a home phone, so if there was ever a situation where he had to call for help by himself, he’d have to use either my iPhone or my wives. Given the 5-step process I described above, and adding in the fact that he can’t read, teaching him how to dial 9-1-1 on an iPhone has been difficult. We eventually downloaded an app called “Call 911!” which basically adds a bright red button to your homescreen, that when pushed immediately starts dialing 9-1-1. My son knows that in an emergency, if mom and dad can’t get to the phone, he needs to unlock our phones and find the bright red button, push it and he’ll be connected with the police. It will work fine, but it would be a lot easier if all he had to do was push the home button and tell Siri “Call the police.” He’s very good at using Siri.
Limited to the Built-In Apps
So far, Siri can only perform functions in the standard built-in apps of the iPhone: Messages, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Music, Phone, Safari, Maps. It cannot perform functions in any other apps. However, from what I understand, developers can use the Siri API’s to allow Siri access to their apps. So it’s only a matter of time before app developers start to update their apps with functionality for Siri.
Here are the Top 5 Apps I wish could work with Siri:
Rdio – Ever since subscribing to Rdio for music, I haven’t bought any albums or songs on iTunes. I don’t even sync music to my phone anymore because I don’t want to use up the space for songs I can listen to through Rdio as well. Right now, if I tell Siri to play music or play a certain band, it tells me that band isn’t available in my iTunes library. Siri should be able to play a song, band, playlist, etc. using Rdio, but it can’t.
Camera – I’m not sure how often I’d really use this or if it would really work, but it would be pretty cool if I could hold my phone steady with both hands and just tell Siri “Take a photo” and have it automatically snap the picture. I’d get a lot steadier shots that way.
Facebook and Twitter – I want to be able to tell Siri “Post ‘I’m eating a sandwhich’ on Facebook” and have it automatically update my Facebook status for me. Same for Twitter. But it can’t help with Facebook or Twitter, even though Twitter is now integrated into the core of the phone’s operating system. For now, I’ve found a work around: Facebook and Twitter both give you a secret email address that allow you to post updates just by sending an email. I saved those email addresses as contacts, and just have Siri “Send an email to Facebook” and it updates my status with the body of my email. It’s not as elegant as it could be though.
Bank Apps – Logging into my Chase or BofA app just to check my balance is annoying. With Siri integration, it would be awesome to just say “Siri, what’s my account balance?” or even “Tell me my last 5 checking transactions.” Bigger picture would be, “Siri, tell me the last time I ate at Delfino’s and how much I spent,” or “How much did I spend on groceries last month?” It’s definitely possible. Might take integration with bank apps and Mint.com, but it’s possible.
GroupOn Now – I’d love to be able to ask “What deals are near me?” and have it tell me the local GroupOn Now deals. Add Perq, Living Social, Coupons.com, etc. and it could spit back any kind of deal or coupon in your area, or the store you are in. “Siri, any deals at Target today?”
Bonus: Wikipedia – I really wanted to call this a “Top 5″ so this one is a bonus. Siri uses Wolfram Alpha for most of its information gathering, and dumps you at a Google Search for anything it can’t find. However, if it tied into Wikipedia as well, I’d find that very useful. Maybe its not as reliable as Wolfram Alpha, but it certainly would fill in the gaps of information that Siri can’t find.
Better Noise Control
In a quiet room, or with the headphones or an earpiece on, Siri hears me perfectly. In the car, with just driving noise, it does just fine. However, with a 4 year old singing to himself in the backseat, it can’t make out half of what I say. And it’s utterly useless with a crying baby nearby. This is to be expected, but it can also be improved upon.
Siri Can’t Reserve You A Table
Siri can find me a restaurant, but it unfortunately can’t reserve me a table. Back when Siri was a third party app, before Apple bought it and made it into what it is today, it was integrated with OpenTable for restaurant reservations. Unfortunately, Apple seems to have taken that out. Presumably, because it actually never worked very well. However, I was hoping that Apple would just fix it and improve upon it. I see no reason why they can’t make it work. If I can use the OpenTable app to reserve a table for 4 at 7:30pm at my favorite restaurant, all without ever talking to a live person or making a phone call – then Siri should be able to do this for me.
Siri Can’t Look Up Flights
Siri can’t help you with flight info. Whether it’s “What’s the status of Airtran Flight 280?,” or “Find me the cheapest flight to Dallas on October 20th,” Siri can’t help you. It can pull up a Google search for you, but that’s it. Integration with Flight tracking would be a nice start, but integration with Expedia, Priceline, Hotels.com, etc. would be awesome. Full integration with your airline of choice would be magical: “Siri, change my morning flight to the afternoon.”
Despite these limitations, Siri is awesome. It has lived up to everything they said it would be, and has made my life a heck of a lot easier. It was well worth the upgrade to the iPhone 4S, even if I can’t call it an iPhone 5. I imagine that everything I’ve listed above is already being worked on, and that what we’ve seen with Siri is only the beginning. As early as this time next year, I expect to be talking to Siri on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.