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Apple Sued Over Siri's Shortcomings

A Brooklyn man says Apple's voice-activated assistant can't understand directions, contrary to Apple's ads.

A Brooklyn man recently launched a class-action lawsuit against Apple over Siri, the popular personal digital assistant on the iPhone 4S, claiming the feature can't understand directions, locate nearby stores, and often produces incorrect answers.

This poor performance has lead Frank M. Fazio to allege that Apple's advertising campaign for Siri showing people using Siri to help them learn to play music, find local restaurants and schedule appointments is misleading. Fazio bought an iPhone 4S in November for $299 (presumably the 32GB model), and claims he would not have shelled out that much money for a new iPhone if not for Apple's Siri advertisements.

"The iPhone 4S's Siri feature does not perform as advertised," the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California reads. "...Siri is, at best, a work in progress." Apple, in fact, has said the same thing about Siri, calling it a beta feature. As the lawsuit points out, however, Apple does not always mention this in its promotional material touting the feature.

Siri troubles

Whether Apple's claims are misleading has yet to be decided, but Fazio is part of a growing chorus of discontent over Siri. Despite an initially positive reception from reviewers when the iPhone 4S launched in October, users and critics have raised complaints about the iPhone 4S' oft-hyped feature. The biggest complaint is that Siri requires an Internet connection to function since most of the heavy-duty processing is done on Apple's servers and not the phone itself. So if you are without connectivity, Siri will not work. And the phone doesn't even have a backup feature, such as the iPhone's old voice control features, for basic Siri-like functions such as voice dialing. Siri's connectivity limitations were highlighted in November when Apple suffered an outage that knocked Siri service offline for about a day.

Siri is also having a hard time understanding non-U.S. English language accents, according to claims from users overseas. Apple's recent introduction of Siri in Japanese is also off to a rocky start, according to Kotaku.

Perhaps the most troubling claim about Siri comes from Cult of Mac, arguing that Siri is broken and is actually performing worse now than when it first launched. Citing comments by Apple cofounder Steven Wozniak, the Apple-centric blog says Siri is often returning poorer answers than it did a few months ago for questions such as "What is the average height of an American male?" The problem may be that Apple is having trouble keeping up with demand for the service as it expands across the world, resulting in poorer performance, Cult of Mac says.

Despite the criticisms, however, many users still love to use Siri on a daily basis and the feature has inspired app makers to create similar services for competing platforms such as Android. Google is also reportedly working on its own Siri solution for Android.

Hackers are getting into the Siri fun with projects such as SiriProxy, which allows you to use Siri to activate items over your home's local network such as a PC or thermostat. Siri has also inspired numerous satirical takes on the iPhone's newest feature (most are NSFW) including Scoopertino's recent video showing Siri's debut as a recording artist:

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.


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