Apple keeps ‘fixing’ what isn’t wrong with Siri

Macworld

Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a Monday morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.

Siri season

Ironically for a technology that interprets human voices, Siri is evidence that Apple isn’t very good at listening. Countless users (and at least one trusted expert) have complained about the frequency with which Siri gets things wrong, but the company refuses to acknowledge the problem and shows little inclination to make it smarter. We’ve tried nothing, tearful department heads presumably report to Tim Cook, and we’re all out of ideas.

Actually, that isn’t quite fair. Apple has lots of ideas for ways to make Siri better; they’re just the wrong ideas. Shortening the trigger phrase, for example, fixes something that wasn’t broken and makes something that was bad–false positives where Siri muscles into conversations where it isn’t wanted–even worse. Nobody was going around complaining about that burdensome third syllable. The trigger phrase wasn’t the problem.

What about the microphones, then? Maybe they’re the problem. Last week fellow trusted expert Ming-Chi Kuo reported that next year’s iPhone 16 will have better microphones in order to deliver superior Siri performance. But again–and I hope this won’t sound ungrateful–audio fidelity wasn’t the problem. Sure, Siri’s gaffes can occasionally be traced to mishearings, and nine months from now, and on the new iPhones only, that will happen less. But far more of the mistakes occur when Siri correctly hears the owner’s words and then extrapolates those words into some ludicrous fantasyland interpretation. Focusing on the microphones is like going into a Parisian restaurant and speaking English loudly instead of doing the hard work of learning French.

What needs to happen isn’t exciting, and doesn’t make appealing headlines because it can’t be quantified in hardware spec upgrades. But it’s important. Apple needs to put its software teams on an urgent mission to make Siri smarter at interpreting commands, less prone to guess when it doesn’t have good evidence of what is needed, and less intrusive unless it can be sure it’s wanted. This is hard work–and the worst part is that Apple can’t even take credit for the improvements at a launch event without admitting that Siri is less-than-great. As far as Apple is concerned this is all pain and no gain, and part of me can sort of understand why it’s so reluctant to knuckle down.

But Apple is supposed to be all about the user experience, and big announcement or not, people will notice if Siri 2.0 suddenly stops getting things wrong. This is a technology that’s built into almost all of Apple’s consumer products, and fixing it would have huge benefits for everyone. I’m just not convinced that Apple realizes it needs fixing, and that’s the most worrying thing of all.

Foundry

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Podcast of the week

On this episode of the Macworld Podcast, it’s all about your hot takes! You have thoughts on a couple of hot-button topics! Let’s hear what you have to say!

You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on SpotifySoundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.

The rumor mill

The dream of an all-screen iPhone is closer than ever. (But it’s still very far away.)

Forget flowers, this spring will be all about M3 iPads and Macs.

The iPhone 16 is expected to get a microphone upgrade to ‘significantly’ improve Siri. About time!

Microsoft may be gearing up to launch its own game store on iPhones.

Apple is chasing a new financial partner to keep Apple Card running smoothly.

Software updates, bugs, and problems

New proxy trojan malware shows why you shouldn’t pirate Mac software.

How ‘fake’ Lockdown Mode can fool iPhone users into a false sense of security.

That bride’s wacky ‘glitch in the matrix’ iPhone photo has a simple explanation.

The iPhone 13 and 14 are getting faster wireless charging with iOS 17.2.

Apple releases fifth 2nd-gen AirPods Pro firmware update in less than 2 months.

tvOS 17.2 changes your Siri Remote’s side button for the better.

And with that, we’re done for this week’s Apple Breakfast. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Threads, or Twitter for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.

iPhone

​Macworld Macworld

Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a Monday morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.

Siri season

Ironically for a technology that interprets human voices, Siri is evidence that Apple isn’t very good at listening. Countless users (and at least one trusted expert) have complained about the frequency with which Siri gets things wrong, but the company refuses to acknowledge the problem and shows little inclination to make it smarter. We’ve tried nothing, tearful department heads presumably report to Tim Cook, and we’re all out of ideas.

Actually, that isn’t quite fair. Apple has lots of ideas for ways to make Siri better; they’re just the wrong ideas. Shortening the trigger phrase, for example, fixes something that wasn’t broken and makes something that was bad–false positives where Siri muscles into conversations where it isn’t wanted–even worse. Nobody was going around complaining about that burdensome third syllable. The trigger phrase wasn’t the problem.

What about the microphones, then? Maybe they’re the problem. Last week fellow trusted expert Ming-Chi Kuo reported that next year’s iPhone 16 will have better microphones in order to deliver superior Siri performance. But again–and I hope this won’t sound ungrateful–audio fidelity wasn’t the problem. Sure, Siri’s gaffes can occasionally be traced to mishearings, and nine months from now, and on the new iPhones only, that will happen less. But far more of the mistakes occur when Siri correctly hears the owner’s words and then extrapolates those words into some ludicrous fantasyland interpretation. Focusing on the microphones is like going into a Parisian restaurant and speaking English loudly instead of doing the hard work of learning French.

What needs to happen isn’t exciting, and doesn’t make appealing headlines because it can’t be quantified in hardware spec upgrades. But it’s important. Apple needs to put its software teams on an urgent mission to make Siri smarter at interpreting commands, less prone to guess when it doesn’t have good evidence of what is needed, and less intrusive unless it can be sure it’s wanted. This is hard work–and the worst part is that Apple can’t even take credit for the improvements at a launch event without admitting that Siri is less-than-great. As far as Apple is concerned this is all pain and no gain, and part of me can sort of understand why it’s so reluctant to knuckle down.

But Apple is supposed to be all about the user experience, and big announcement or not, people will notice if Siri 2.0 suddenly stops getting things wrong. This is a technology that’s built into almost all of Apple’s consumer products, and fixing it would have huge benefits for everyone. I’m just not convinced that Apple realizes it needs fixing, and that’s the most worrying thing of all.

Foundry

Trending: Top stories

Apple fans should be celebrating Android’s iMessage win.

How can Apple fix the iPad? By keeping it simple, stupid.

Get a rare look at Apple’s most iconic moments as the Mac turns 40.

Suddenly everything Apple touches is doomed, wails the Macalope.

PSA: You can save hundreds at the Apple Store just by asking.

What the Beep?! New app ‘cracks’ iMessage and turns Android bubbles blue.

Robbery victim gets his phone back when thieves realize it’s not an iPhone.

Podcast of the week

On this episode of the Macworld Podcast, it’s all about your hot takes! You have thoughts on a couple of hot-button topics! Let’s hear what you have to say!

You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.

The rumor mill

The dream of an all-screen iPhone is closer than ever. (But it’s still very far away.)

Forget flowers, this spring will be all about M3 iPads and Macs.

The iPhone 16 is expected to get a microphone upgrade to ‘significantly’ improve Siri. About time!

Microsoft may be gearing up to launch its own game store on iPhones.

Apple is chasing a new financial partner to keep Apple Card running smoothly.

Software updates, bugs, and problems

New proxy trojan malware shows why you shouldn’t pirate Mac software.

How ‘fake’ Lockdown Mode can fool iPhone users into a false sense of security.

That bride’s wacky ‘glitch in the matrix’ iPhone photo has a simple explanation.

The iPhone 13 and 14 are getting faster wireless charging with iOS 17.2.

Apple releases fifth 2nd-gen AirPods Pro firmware update in less than 2 months.

tvOS 17.2 changes your Siri Remote’s side button for the better.

And with that, we’re done for this week’s Apple Breakfast. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Threads, or Twitter for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.

iPhone 

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