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Although we didn't get a brand new iPhone 5, we consoled ourselves with the 4S because it had a better camera and a speedy processor, and hey Apple even had a super tech answer to the antenna problems that had marred the iPhone 4 release. But the main feature that everyone came away talking about after the big 4S reveal was Siri. She was going to help us do anything and everything, and was oh so much better than the competition. The reality is now beginning to bite though and even those who love it are probably using it as a gimmick to answer all kinds of weird and wonderful questions. For some though, Siri isn't anywhere near perfect.
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I'm Sorry But You're Not in the US!
Perhaps the most annoying trait that Siri has is that it will only really function perfectly on all levels if you are in the United States. OK, I realize that Apple is a US company and of course the US is a massive market, but as a device that ships worldwide to other big markets it doesn't seem like a big ask that countries like the UK and Japan should be able to use simple functions like the location. If you ask Siri in the UK to find you the nearest Italian restaurant for example, you'll wait a second or two before he (yes "he" in the UK - we'll get to that), reveals that "Sorry, I can only look for businesses in the United States."
Interestingly though, the clever guys at Pocket Lint have found a workaround -- use Google! You need to alter a few settings in Safari and make sure that you give Google permission to use your location. You'll then still need to use your tapping finger to bring up a map or directions if you need them, but it's certainly one way around the problem. You will need to be more specific in your request here though, by saying a particular restaurant you want to find rather than just "I'm hungry", but until Siri can handle locations outside of the US it just might have to do you for now.
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What did you Say?
Another location-based annoyance for some, is that Siri will only accept commands in US English -- in fact the helpful Siri in the rest of the world will often tell you this. This doesn't mean you need to adopt an American accent, but there are subtle differences that are proving annoying to a good many people. The Japanese and Scottish in particular are having a hard job making themselves understood to Siri. Some of the "translations" might appear amusing to us, but could be awffy* irritating to a Scot.
There are other minor irritancies such as obviously American answers, but nothing to detract -- in fact some of these can be quite humorous. One of my favorite examples is a friend who asked Siri to "talk dirty". The ever witty Siri (yep he's got that going for him), answered with a list of dirty words like "compost, mud, mulch" etc, only the inclusion of "humus" seemed a strange answer to my UK friend. In the US, humus may be known as a type of compost, but in Europe we know it as a Middle Eastern dip. Amusing rather than a problem, but I'd love to know if there are any more examples of this cultural divide that haven't been considered.
*Scottish for awfully -- just in case you think I miss-hit my spell check!
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Security Aren't in the Building
The security issue with Siri has been widely publicized, but it's worth a mention here in case it has passed you by. There is a default setting with Siri that means your iPhone 4S can be unlocked. Basically, even with a passcode in place anyone could pick up your device, press the home button to activate Siri and your phone is their oyster -- could make for some interesting lewd texts being dictated by a prankster and you'd be none the wiser.
Of course there is an easy answer, which is why I've included the security issue here at all. Go to the passcode lock settings and find the option that allows Siri access even with passcode lock on, and turn it off. A simple fix of course, but really why this is turned on by default is anyone's guess.
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Why Isn't He She Perfect?
While I may scratch my head over the strange decision to make Siri a female in the US but a male in the UK, this doesn't affect the functionality so I certainly don't see it as a problem. I do know that some are disappointed not to have the dulcet female tones of Siri at their beck and call though - I guess some guys like that. For those who are interested, although Apple haven't commented on the reasoning, it's thought that Brits are more likely to trust an assertive male voice whereas Americans are more receptive to a female. Well, Mr. Siri I'd trust you a lot more if you could find me what I need, instead of leaving me to play around in Google.
I am well aware that Siri is still in beta, but honestly as this is what the really big selling point of the iPhone 4S was it really should be pretty near perfect -- this is Apple after all. Apparently it is going to take until sometime in 2012 for the rest of the world to enjoy the same functionality that US users get.
In the meantime, you'll just have to use Siri as a gimmick app to keep you amused and ask pointless questions to see what answers you get. That should keep you entertained for a good few hours -- just remember to do it in US English!
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Any More Examples?
I'm genuinely interested to find if there are any other irritancies or examples (amusing or otherwise) of cultural differences between Siri and yourself. Drop me a comment below.
- Proof Siri Can't Understand a Proper Scottish Accent, http://kotaku.com/5849743/gaming-with-the-iphone-4s-and-proof-siri-cant-understand-a-proper-scottish-accent
- Siri and the sex of technology, http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2011/oct/21/siri-apple-prejudice-behind-digital-voices
- Siri being funny, http://www.flickr.com/photos/inkiboo/6251060648/sizes/z/in/photostream/
- Siri suffers stuttering start in the UK, http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/42544/iphone-4s-siri-issue-uk
- Siri doesn't understand, planetc1/Flickr
- Siri LA screenshot, planetc1/Flickr
All images apart from the iPhone 4S shot from Apple, are released under CC 2.0 Attribution Share Alike license.