Siri and our expectations

I love Siri and what it can do for me, when it works properly. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen with every device. The more devices I use Siri with, the more I’ve come to realize that maybe it’s my expectations of Siri that allows me to enjoy it on certain devices more than others.

I am amazed with how well Siri works on my HomePod. As I wrote in my review of the device, I can stand 20 feet away with the music at 80 percent, and Siri will understand me. In fact, 99 percent of the commands I give Siri on the HomePod work perfectly.

As an aside: I did have a funny Siri story on the HomePod. I asked Siri to put the volume at 50 percent, and she responded, “Okay, now playing 50 Cent.” No, Siri, No.

What’s interesting about Siri on the HomePod is that I am limited in what I can ask it to do, so my expectations of its accomplishments are relatively low. It plays the bands I want, turns the volume up and down, gives me information about the song, etc.

Apple did a great job of setting my expectations of what to expect from Siri on that device.

I feel the same way about Siri in CarPlay. When I hop in the car and activate Siri, I’m basically going to do one of three things: Play music, ask for directions, or send a message.

Again, the expectations for what Siri is going to do are pretty low, but very specific. Siri does a great job in the car, no matter what I ask it to do. However, for the most part, I keep within the known parameters, which gives me the sense that Siri works really well.

HomePod and CarPlay are very similar devices in the way Siri works. They have very specific functions that work, we know those limitations, and we knowingly or unknowingly stay within those parameters.

I would love to see Siri handle multiple, complex commands. Even something as simple as adding items to your grocery list. “Hey Siri, add peas, bread, and milk to the grocery list,” and have Siri parse those three items. Or even, “Hey Siri, Play Ozzy, and turn the volume to 100 percent.” Currently, you have to do each one of those commands separately, which isn’t optimal.

Having said that, Siri still works really well on HomePod and CarPlay.

Where Siri starts to breakdown for me is with the iPhone and Apple Watch. There are parts of Siri that work really well on both of these devices, but there are some uses that are way out there.

For instance, dictating a message using Siri is nearly flawless on either device. However, I don’t know what the limitations of Siri on the iPhone and Apple Watch are, so I ask it all kinds of things that it either can’t do or misinterprets what I want it to do.

That is incredibly annoying and leads some of us to use Siri to set timers and do everything else using the keyboard. On my Apple Watch, I see the “Hold On…”, “I’ll tap you when I’m ready” message far too often. Sometimes it’s not even worth trying to set a timer or play music with it.

When I can open an app and do something simple like set a timer or start playing music faster than the virtual assistant, there is a problem.

Maybe Siri on the iPhone isn’t supposed to have any limitations—I certainly don’t see any, but I have trouble asking it questions about sports, music, schedules, Olympics, and other things.

I can wrap my head around HomePod and CarPlay’s limitations and Siri works like a charm. Maybe I’m doing Siri wrong on the iPhone and Apple Watch, but my troubles there have led me to using the technology as a dictation service and occasionally setting timers.

It seems like such a waste, but I can’t figure out a way to make it work better.