Let's face it: The iPhone's new "Siri" feature is a bust

Worse than its failure to understand my words is its failure to understand my meaning. Siri is often quite dumb. Sure, it will do what you tell it. But it doesn’t interpret or do nuance, even though that is exactly what Apple promises. The recent abortion flap, for example, seems to be due to Siri’s interpretive failures. Granted, I’m not planning on having an abortion anytime soon, but let’s talk about hospitals.

In the Siri commercial, a woman asks Siri for the fastest way to a particular hospital. That only works because she tells it exactly where she wants to go. Siri is pretty good when you tell it exactly and explicitly what you want. But move into real world examples and Siri breaks down.

If instead of asking Siri the fastest way to Hospital X, you ask for the fastest way to get to an emergency room, it kicks back a list of all the ones in the area, leaving you bleeding on the floor to decide. Siri provides distances, but it doesn’t show travel time (or traffic congestion) in that list. In short, it doesn’t show the fastest way at all. I’m bleeding here! It may not be an outright lie, but it’s disingenuous enough that I felt deceived when I discovered it. I mean, odds are, if you’re asking for the fastest directions to some sort of medical center, it’s an emergency. Yeah, the ad is literally true, but also completely false.

It’s also the reason Apple doesn’t show Siri’s full reply when people ask it for directions in the commercials: It doesn’t actually navigate! Dumb-old GPS programs and devices have been doing this for years. My nearly two-year-old Android phone did this with aplomb when I would bark an address at it. But not Siri. Siri just delivers a list, which I need to take my eyes off the road to advance through. And God forbid I go off-route. While my Nexus would automatically re-route me, with Siri I have to pull over, and ask again. That’s stupid.