Is Apple Really Being 'Misleading and Deceptive' About Siri?

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Frank M. Fazio has a beef with Siri. He claims that Apple has presented a "misleading and deceptive message" about the iPhone's voice-activated personal assistant in its ads. Throughout his complaint, via Law Blog's Joe Palazzolo, Fazio cites actions completed by Siri in various commercials -- finding BBQ restaurants in Kansas City or teaching guitar lessons. For him, however, Siri did not oblige. "Siri either did not understand what Plaintiff was asking, or, after a very long wait time, responded with the wrong answer," he writes in the complaint. Siri has had funny response behavior before, so this doesn't seem out of line. 

Here's Fazio's main gripe:

[I]n many of Apple’s television advertisements, individuals are shown using Siri to make appointments, find restaurants, and even learn the guitar chords to classic rock songs or how to tie a tie. In the commercials, all of these tasks are done with ease with the assistance of the iPhone 4S’s Siri feature, a represented functionality contrary to the actual operating results and performance of Siri.

We decided to test out Siri's performance ourselves using "Rock God," one of the seven iPhone 4S commercials Apple has listed on its site (and one which Fazio cites).

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In the 31-second spot, the main character says the following things to Siri. 

  • "I gotta get a guitar."
  • "How do I play a B Minor 9th?"
  • "Add migraine headache to my list of band names."
  • "Tell Julie and Kate our band is playing in the garage tonight."
  • "Call me Rock God." 

Yet, in our test, we got the same responses we see in the commercial: guitar stores, a chord with the rights notes, a list, a text message, and a new nickname. For good measure, we tried out some of the other gripes Fazio presented in his complaint, asking Siri, "Is there a gas station I can walk to?" "What does Orion look like?" and "What's the best BBQ place in DC?" She responded just fine to those, too, with the only issues happening as a result of our own mumbling. 

There were some questions asked in the "Rock God" ad that Siri did not respond to, however. Apple's sly about it. In the spot, before asking Siri how to play a B Minor 9th, our protagonist queries about two specific songs, asking, "How do I play London Calling? A Whole Lotta Love?" We never see the answers to those questions in the ad. And when we tested them out, Siri didn't understand, and sent us to the Web. We're guessing the commercial doesn't have Siri responding to those for a reason, and that's a bit misleading. But did Fazio really expect Siri to act like a human personal assistant? Because, earth to Fazio, it's a robot. In beta. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.