What Apple needs to do to improve Siri

“The HomePod is coming Friday, and with it, even more attention is being paid to Siri, Apple’s voice assistant that serves as its primary interface,” Jason Snell writes for Macworld. “The early HomePod reviews are in, and most of them suggest the device is an excellent speaker that’s hampered by Siri’s limitations.”

“I haven’t used a HomePod yet, so I can’t speak to that, but as someone with a constellation of Apple devices, it does seem to me that Siri could stand to use some improvement,” Snell writes. “When I asked a bunch of dedicated Apple users what they’d like to see changed in Siri, I (unsurprisingly) stepped into a long list of grievances.”

“As has been exposed in initial reviews of the HomePod, Siri doesn’t support multiple named timers, which is a problem — especially if you’re cooking. The single most used feature of our Amazon Echo is timers, believe it or not,” Snell writes. “It’s incredibly useful to be able to call out with your voice as you’re moving pots around on the stove and chopping vegetables, and Siri would benefit from this feature across all its platforms.”

MacDailyNews Take: We just say “Hey Siri, set a timer for [number] minutes,” and our Apple Watches – which are always right there on our wrists – do the rest. No Echo – or HomePod – required. Of course, the ability to do multiple timers on a single device would be useful. Right now, we just set another timer on our iPhones or iPads. But, of course, Apple is too cash-poor and short-staffed to spend the three hours it would take to add multiple timer capability.

“Siri’s palette can be dramatically expanded by opening up to web services, not just apps resident on an iOS device,” Snell writes. “In true Apple fashion, such a move wouldn’t come via a wide-open skills market like Amazon’s. Instead, I assume Siri web integrations would need to be approved by Apple before being placed in the Siri equivalent of the App Store.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple released Siri, the first modern digital virtual assistant, in October 2011. Amazon released Alexa in November 2014. Google Assistant was released in May 2016.

So, why are we even talking about this? Why is Siri not regarded as far and away the best, but rather as notably worse than those later entrants?

Mismanagement of the project from the software to the marketing.


  1. Siri doesn’t recognize different voices on the HomePod, This makes it easy for any one to access messages on the HomePod. But Siri on the iPhone does recognize different voices. This thing should never have come to market in this condition.

    Today’s news of Apple iPhone source code being “leaked” online finally shows Apple is just another electronic manufacture with with dunderheads running the show.

    1. Shere laziness on Apple’s part and a blatent lack of vision sadly. Its not that Siri can’t technically do most of these things hell she could do things that are not available now but were before Apple bought it. Its almost like its a political decision defining users as not ready for such services or that they simply feel putting the resources in is not worth what some financial return analysis defines as worthwhile. Hell sometimes its like Ballmer is in charge with the attitude that dripfeed the plebs as slow as possible to keep the cash coming in with as little effort as possible.

      1. I pegged Siri’s lobotimization by Apple was due to removing any Siri capability they were not able to immediately Secure well enough under Apple’s security policy at the time. As for why they didn’t continue work on securing and reinstating the services they ‘cut’ you’ll have to ask the Siri/iOS Team.

  2. Siri started at as a hobby for Apple. With all Apple hobbies, they make a big splash in the market place and then are ignored by Apple’s development team.

    Then at some point Apple abandons the hobby and out of the blue it kills it. Even if it’s a successful product people want to buy.

    Under Tim Cook, Apple has become a cellphone company. Every other product be damned.

    Siri is CLEARLY no where near as good as Google Voice, the only advantage it has is the ability to do phone functions.

    I’m using google voice app on my phone more and more, because I get actual answers, not ” I found this on the web, take a look”

    1. And Amazon’s Echo is better? Turns out it’s only a glorified timer… crap sound, and usefulness so limited that most people don’t even use it once the novelty has worn off. And no, Siri was never just a hobby (you’re getting confused with Apple TV) – several of Apple’s recent acquisitions are focused on improvements in Siri, so it’s not being ignored, though I agree it should not have been allowed to fall behind.

      1. With Echo, at least you have the option of connecting a better output speaker to it. Not like you have the option to replace Siri on the HomePod or at least ‘add’ Watson.

  3. Could not agree with MDN more. Mismanagement, lack of commitment, and lack of vision has put Siri were it is today. It had the chance to really tie this market up but having the wrong people in the wrong jobs not only cost Apple but cost all of us. People say, “well look and see how successful Apple has been in making money.” I say consider how much more successful Apple would be if the same amount of credibility was present today as it was in the past. There wouldn’t be a Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. Boy I wish I could bring back someone.

    1. Well, first thing would probably get Siri working offline on iPhones for at least all basic functions (set timer, create/read/delete appt, etc.) now that the newer models have the AI chip. Then follow up with interacting with installed Apps or at least the data contained therein.

      1. I’m a bit shocked that this hasn’t happened already. It’s not as if current tech doesn’t have the processing power to start a timer without an internet connection. Even with one, Siri doesn’t have the foggiest idea about finding a note for example containing X (a word, a number, etc.). Siri is a glorified voice calculator and timer machine that even fails at those basic functions at least 1/3 of the time for me. Had I never used Siri once since 2011 to this point and did everything manually, I would have saved many hours of time.

  4. Siri definitely needs improvement. Most blind people use the heck out of Siri, mainly because they don’t know how to use the screen reader, Voiceover, so well. So, they pull out their iPhones and ask Siri, for around five minutes, how many miles some category of places is away, when they could simply open Safari and query Google about it. In fact, I heard one blind Apple say to a newly blind person getting his first iPhone, “You don’t have to worry about using your phone. Just get Siri to do all of it for you.” Of course, it would be nice if it were true that one could get Siri to do everything for you, including restarting an iPhone when Voiceover fails, but of course, Apple talks about owning the entire widget, while “You’ll have to use your iPhone for this. I can’t help you with this on your Watch,” when Siri is one of the main features of the Watch. Sure, it would help if blind people weren’t taught to be Siri-dependent, but that’s Assistive Technology Instructor problems, not the fault of the blind user entirely, although it’d help if they’d explore for themselves. Devin Prater Assistive Technology Instructor

    , Microsoft Outlook, Excel, Word, and Powerpoint instructor certified by World Services for the Blind


  5. I wear a $29 watch on my wrist that has 4 stopwatches and a rotating bezel for general timing. It runs on batteries I can replace for $10, and the batteries last 3 years. I use it for cooking. Why do I need a $600 watch that in this instance does less? Apple Watch still makes no sense to me.

      1. Timers are just one glaring example of the hundreds of things that an Apple watch could do but doesn’t very well. I could pull my phone out of my pocket and ask Siri for a timer, or look at an e-mail, or wear a watch that does the that functionality better. I have yet to see a functionality on the Apple Watch that makes it a device that does things better or in a way that nothing else does, or makes it massively easier to do them. Jobs used to call it the “killer app”. What’s a watch if it can’t do a timer right? So no, Apple Watch still makes no sense to me, and I’m sorry if you paid $1,500 for yours. Feel free to try and convince my what the Apple Watch can do that nothing else does or that fundamentally makes things better/faster/easier/cheaper. I haven’t seen it or anything close to that yet; if you can do that, it might actually be the Brutal Truth.

        1. You may not be a moron but you’re a smartass at best. The “killer app” is notifications. You don’t have to have your phone next to you to get a message or do any number of things that require reaching for a phone. You can’t convince smartasses of anything so I won’t bother with more. Apple Watch owners know what I mean.

  6. Apple’s stance on privacy really doesn’t help the situation. I agree 100% with Apple and their views on privacy but I can see how having this personal data without having to use differential privacy could make Siri not as good. Google and Amazon don’t have to worry about that.

    I would rather stick with Apple and how they handle privacy.

    1. I don’t buy that reasoning. Privacy has nothing to do with Siri being able to do logic operations, local processing, and proper pronunciation of stuff.

      I think the problem is that Apple doesn’t put hardly any effort into usability unless they can tie it to a monthly subscription. For features that are necessary only because of the need to keep up with the Joneses, then minimal effort is the order of the day at Apple these days.

      Look at Maps, too. Still a laggard after all these years. You can tell Siri how to pronounce a street name every day, she will still get it wrong.

    1. to the woodshed. Siri’s an idiot and I told her so (again) just yesterday. She goes on and on with “after all I’ve done for you?” and she still can’t get my email address correct even though it’s a .mac address and it’s in my contacts. My self-confidence is waning too, as she talks back my speech like I talk with rocks in my mouth. If not the woodshed, reform school would be a decent option. Siri’s an idiot.

  7. I pray.. pray ..pray and pray… that Apple puts massive resourse behind Siri and AI in general….. Siri has massive catching up to do !

    The option of neglecting this or in any shape or form justifying Apple’s Siri/AI status quo is suicidal.
    Ai is the future !

    1. Would it kill Apple to produce simple tutorials for Siri so we can get the most out of it? Apple maintains the mantra of “it just works”, “just say what you want”, without providing any instruction. Outside of timers and starting a workout, I’d say Siri is about 30% effective for me, that’s nearly worthless. I don’t bother asking a slew of questions because I know it’ll just be a waste of time. The most common reply I get is “I checked the web for that, here’s what I found…” or on my Watch “continue on iPhone”. I may as well just search Safari myself with a 100% found-what-I’m-looking-for rate.

      1. That may be a good idea. No better way than to actually list out exactly Siri can do to make it glaringly obvious to whoever is responsible for Siri how far behind in functionality she is to her competition.

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