Memento, starring Siri

Marco Arment’s response to Boris at ReadWriteWeb’s question “Is it time to say goodbye to Siri?” prompts me to add more to my chronicle of chronic Siri struggle.

First, Siri’s response when I tried to use my wife’s phone to call my own. Yes, I tapped the phone number Siri offered and labeled “mobile” and she gave me a map of Mobile, Alabama. Obviously a bug of some sort, but how is that anything but seriously broken and embarrassing? Isn’t this exactly the sort of task Siri was built for?


Then another short-term memory failure. In moments like this, Siri bears a striking similarity to Leonard from Memento.


These aren’t reliability issues and these aren’t managing expectations issues. These are basic issues that a marquee feature of a marquee product of a marquee company.

Siri is shit

At least right now. Really.

I can’t figure out how to get her to reliably e-mail my wife. I’ll ask her to e-mail “my wife” or “Laura” and she’ll start reading off the addresses I have for her, which itself is a long and involved process as she carefully enunciates every letter and every piece of punctuation in all three addresses and there is no way to mark a single address as the default (at least she’s past asking which Laura I want to e-mail). Then I’ll tell her which address I want and then she’ll tell me she has no idea what I’m talking about. And then there’s a moment when we both realize that we’re interrupting each other so we both stop. And wait. And then I realize neither of us is saying anything.

And then I do it again until she either gets it right or I give up.

It’s a joke in my family that whenever I ask Siri to call someone, she screws it up. Because she does. My old Android phone had no problem finding and dialing the number for the local public swimming pool. Siri, on the other hand, thinks she’s got the right number, but it turns out that she’s dialed the recreation center downtown. Or she gets confused and apologizes because she can’t search for businesses in Poland (or Italy). Then there was another time that, well, I’m not exactly sure what happened or what Siri thought I wanted.

I’m gotten wary of using Siri to call anyone, really, because I’m not sure how to abort a call if Siri announces who she’s calling and starts dialing (because while she’ll take five minutes to doublecheck which e-mail address I want, she won’t do the same for phone calls) and it’s clear she’s misunderstood who I want to reach. In a panic, can I starting shouting “CANCEL! CANCEL! NO, SIRI!”? Do I have to get my phone out of my pocket and jab a button? Or turn on the screen and tap the Siri microphone> Can I squeeze the magic button thingy attached to my Apple-provided headphones? I’m not sure, so I usually try to do all of them at once. So, you know, she’s no longer a hands-free assistant.

Maybe she’s great if you’re dictating e-mail messages or tweets or text into some input field, but to me, that’s not Siri. She’s pitched as an assistant. I don’t count dictation. She’s supposed to do things for me. And right now she’s an assistant who not only doesn’t anticipate my needs, which would be asking a lot and is fine, but she needs an awful lot of hand holding.

To be fair, she works pretty well for reminders, though. Except when she’s being oddly anti-Semitic.