The Siri hatchet job from WSJ

The Wall Street Journal did a complete hatchet job on Siri this week this week in an article entitled “‘I’m Not Sure I Understand’—How Apple’s Siri Lost Her Mojo”. I use Siri, and yes, I’ve had issues with the responses sometimes, but it’s not at all as bad as what this article implies. In fact, Siri has improved significantly over the past little while.

Siri has remained largely a feature of the iPhone, although it is also available on a handful of other Apple devices, including the Apple Watch.

Well, that’s divisive of Apple Watch, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. I use Siri on all of my devices.

Some former executives, close observers and even devoted customers say Apple’s innovative power appears to be waning, stymied by a lack of urgency and difficulty bringing ideas to fruition.

So people that left the company or were forced out, and I don’t even know what hell a “close observer” is.

Apple will enter the home-speaker market a distant third, at best.

Reporters like this scoffed at the iPhone and iPad too. How did that turn out for you?

In nearly six years under Chief Executive Tim Cook, Apple’s stock has soared but the company has not delivered a breakthrough product on par with the string of hits under late founder Steve Jobs, which included the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Ugh, I hate when people do this. Yes Steve released some amazing products, and Tim has and will continue to, as well. Name me one company that has released a product on par with the iPhone since it was released—there isn’t one. Most companies have one or two major releases in their history, Apple has had multiple. They will continue to work on new products and release innovative products, so don’t bring up Steve and think you’re making a major point because you’re not.

Another thing to consider is that Apple values its customers privacy. I appreciate that. While the article describes it as being “hamstrung”, I think Apple’s commitment to the privacy of its customers should be commended.

I had the chance to hear Apple’s HomePod this week and it was incredible. I’m not sure yet how Siri will work with HomePod, but I’ll add it to the products that I’ll use Siri on a lot. It also kicked the Amazon Echo’s ass in music playback quality.

Can Siri be better? Absolutely. Is it going to get better? Absolutely.

I’m not sure what the WSJ’s reason was for writing such an unbalanced piece of shit, but damn, this article sucked.

  • Mo

    The Journal’s slant on this article sounds as though it’s written within the same ideologically-filtered culture that celebrates trickle-down economics… no matter how many times it continues to spectacularly fail.

    • DanielSw

      Does it not occur to anyone here that this obvious slant against something most of us know is indeed far more good than bad, that a similar slant against President Trump might also be trumped up (pun intended)?

      When will more of us finally seriously start suspecting if not condemn the true intentions of this (and other) rags?

      • No. Because I’ve heard him speak. I don’t need anyone else to tell me he is an ignorant moron.

        • DanielSw

          Yet another proving my point. You’re the ignorant moron. Amazing how political dogma can blind a person.

          • Mo

            It’s not political dogma if one has spent one’s life growing up in New York City listening to the man repeatedly brag about accomplishments that came to nothing but profit for him and hardship for taxpayers. He has written whole books in which he brags about his ability to con people out of money.

            Sadly, too many of the rest of you saw a guy who looked and sounded more like you than the previous guy had. It wouldn’t be the first time.

            Amazing how wishful thinking can blind a person.

          • Mayson

            He didn’t write any books: he just put his name on them, like so many of the other things with his name on them.

          • Mo

            Thank you for the clarification. Yes, he had a writer, but they’re still his “precepts.”

          • Daniel, knock off the name calling.

          • JimCracky

            Your support of Drump is funny in its desire to spread misinformation in the name of the “voice of reason”.

          • Projection much?

          • GlennC777

            The problem, Daniel, is that once we take “sides” arguments become un-productive back-and-forth accusations of ignorance, hypocrisy and so on.

            There are many more than two sides to any given issue, and a person’s position on one issue should not generally be predictive of their position on another, unless the issues are related.

            Unfortunately, our innate tribalism encourages us to try to see issues in terms of “sides,” us vs them, and to then choose our positions on unrelated issues based on the side we’ve adopted rather than on independent rational thought.

            This is tremendously harmful aspect of human nature that ultimately shifts power from individuals who should think independently and rationally to powerful interests with the means to control the discourse.

            Without making any political statements, I would say that the reflex to insult rather than engage somebody with a different view is a symptom of this type of thinking. Tending to side almost universally with one group and likewise reject the ideas of another is undoubtedly one as well.

            I see plenty of tribal thinking in both our major parties in the US. The cure is at least partly to be self-aware, to seek, engage and seriously consider alternative sources and viewpoints, and to have a healthy skepticism of one’s own infallibility.

        • James Hughes

          You’ve expressed your opinion based on your personal experience. Interestingly, “blindness” is often unseen by the accuser. That Daniel can jump to the conclusion that you are just “yet another” and “ignorant” just shows how some can jump to conclusions without proper discourse. Too bad, I’ve seen some good replies here and there from Daniel. But too often it’s a knee jerk reaction.

          I’m sure you’re aware, but you are not an ignorant moron. : )

      • Mo

        Depends on how much documented behavior you’re willing to ignore, simply because he’s the guy you’ve placed your trust in.

        In the WSJ’s case, its editorial position on economics is well known; they always support the affluent conservative dogma, regardless of the historical consequences. That their analyst-driven tech reporting serves the common analyst narrative about Apple comes from similar preconceptions about what constitutes a viable business.

      • JimCracky

        Trump is a fascist and a traitor. Quit pretending otherwise.

      • Wait. Are you seriously comparing Apple, Inc to Donald Trump?

        • Mo

          He did. Because Trump has given us all so much. So much.

  • stsk

    Gruber, there’s some claim chowder for a bit down the road.

    I’ve been a harsh critic of Siri in the past, but Jim’s right – it’s getting a lot better.

    Also, Ford hasn’t done anything revolutionary since Henry the First died, right?

    • Mo

      Ford? Let’s check… still using internal combustion engines burning petroleum distillates to pressure-force a crankshaft.

      Nope. Nothing revolutionary I can see there.

  • Josh Hemsath

    Also, articles in this genre have a tendency to overvalue “pub trivia” and correlate it with usefulness, while tasks like sending messages, setting reminders, or setting kitchen timers are dismissed. It’s like color saturation on showroom TVs—trivia is a fun demo feature and it’s a lot sexier than day-to-day reliability of features that matter.

    As to the WSJ’s reasons? The ensuing internet comment firestorm and resulting clicks are your answers.

  • bdkennedy

    I don’t need to read the article. Siri is wrong more than half the time when I use it, so… I just don’t use it any more. “Take me to the nearest Target.” “Here’s a list of Target stores near you. Would you like me to call one?” And then gives me a list that takes my eyes off the road. This has happened too many times in other ways, so unless Apple unveils some sort of keynote for Siri 2.0, I’m done with it.

    • Sounds like you’ve got voice feedback turned to hands free instead of always. (Err, actually, I don’t remember exactly what it’s called. but there’s only one setting like it there.)

      If Siri recognizes the way you’re talking to it as hands free, it will respond verbally instead of with lists. On the other hand, if you talk to it in a way it doesn’t recognize as hands free it’ll respond with lists unless you have voice feedback set to always.

      “Hey Siri” is considered hands free, but EarPods aren’t. Holding the Home button isn’t. I don’t know what AirPods are considered. (My guess is you’re using EarPods; the inaccuracy you’re experiencing is a big part of my guess. “Hey Siri” on the phone is far more accurate thanks to the noise cancellation.)

      Flip that setting and you’ll be happier. “Take me to the nearest Target” should respond with “I found one on ____, is that it?” Say “Yes” and I think it’ll get you directions; I usually start with “Find the nearest Target” to give me an extra step to make sure Siri got it right. (“Find the nearest Target” / “I found one on ___, is that it?” / “Yes.” / “Okay, would you like me to call it or get directions?” / “Get directions.”)

      • James Hughes

        Correct, it’s Always on, Control with ring switch, and Hands Free Only. Always on acts as you’ve mentioned above.

        • The thing I find shocking about Siri is how much better it is without a headset. Which reminds me: Anyone here know of car BlueTooth set (probably a speakerphone rather than an earpiece) with a really good noise-cancelling microphone?

          • James Hughes

            Yes and that is probably the biggest area that Apple needs to work on with Siri, being able to understand without noise-canceling equipment. Get that done alone and I’ll be much happier.

          • I had a lot less trouble with Siri understanding me in my older mid-size car. Since replacing it with a little Toyota Yaris (I love gas mileage — don’t care about much else), road noise does cause a lot of misinterpretation.

    • “Take me to the nearest Target store” gave me directions to that immediately. If I didn’t say store, it found a nearby roofing business called Target. This was using the Home Button press. Using “Hey Siri” it told me what the nearest one was and then asked me if I wanted that one. I replied yes and it launched Maps and started the directions.

      I love it when people give examples, I run them, and they work fine.

      Now, to be fair, I occasionally do get the list thing, too. Usually that happens with Walmart since we have one about every two miles here in Oklahoma City — much like churches on every corner.

    • Glen Turpin

      My experience is similar. I used to use Siri every day in a fairly limited use case while driving, but it stopped working so I no longer use it at all.

      One of the more frustrating parts is that Siri (or the entire ecosystem) kept forgetting my card in Address Book, along with everything I’d set for home, work, my wife (whose name Siri never understood on its own), my children, and so on.

      I also got completely frustrated with this scenario: “Hey Siri…” beep-beep “Where’s the nearest…” beep-beep “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.” BECAUSE I WAS STILL TALKING, SIRI.

  • DMac

    I think Amazon keeps getting praised for Alexa being able to do things because Amazon opened it up to allow so many third parties to write skills for it. I think Apple’s major concern is that if they allow developers to do this, how many are going to program things in that don’t involve doing things in their App? Also do I really want someone to be able to say “Hey Siri” near my phone and then ask what my bank balance is?

    • David Stewart

      Apple already has SiriKit which allows developers to write their own Siri extensions.

  • Zactu

    Well said. I totally agree Jim. Has improved heaps. But Apple needs put more resources into it as it needs constant improvements.

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    • I use Siri multiple times per day, and it’s already amazing. But you know what would be even better? For them to pour more resources into it to make it even better!

      No argument here al al.

  • Siri’s killer feature is privacy. The recent rash of articles that purport to reveal Siri’s weaknesses at best dismiss this single most important aspect.

    Amazon and Google are making life easier for you, at a cost. Apple is going out of their way to eliminate the cost of your privacy. Most people see this intrusion only as a matter of the ocassional ad popping up after buying or searching for something, they have not followed the implications to their inevitable conclusion. There exists a trail of what you buy, what you look for and what might possibly influence you to do more of the same. Innocent in the hands of your retailer, perhaps, but potentially damaging in the hands of a bad player.

    I prefer Apple’s business model, where we are the customer, not the product. This can not be over stated. Into this we see Siri sneaking into the home with our privacy intact. This makes the Amazon and Google offerings look like what they are, intrusions, no matter how well dressed up.

  • JimCracky

    At some point, probably due to Walt Mossberg, the WSJ went from the bully pulpit of conservative capitalism to a publication broadly seen as having some influence over the culture. Murdoch bought it and turned it into a shit machine. Walt left.

    No-one cares what the WSJ says about tech. NOBODY. It can barely cover the economy without some Murdoch induced hatchet job.

    Don’t fret. They are not influencers.

    • Mo

      You mostly had me until your second paragraph. Insofar as they are still used by conservative capitalists as sanction for their excesses, WSJ is still an influencer.

      • Yeah, I think WSJ’s influence has not faded as quickly as their quality.

    • Meaux

      Seems like they, rightly, took down Theranos. Without the WSJ reporting, tech sites would likely still be praising them to the high heavens.

  • JimCracky

    Oh, and Siri. When I use Siri it generally works fine. I don’t want much more than what Siri does for me now.

  • John Kordyback

    If it wasn’t for Joanna Stern, I would never go to the WSJ site. For a general news site Axios is already far better than the WSJ on the tech side.