Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Class-action lawsuit filed over Siri voice assistant flaws: Siri-ously

Apple has been sued for the flaws in its Siri Voice Assistant, which the company released in beta form along with the iPhone 4S last October.

Frank M. Fazio of New York is being represented by Robbins Geller in the matter. He is suing Apple for false advertising, alleging that the company’s ad convey a "misleading and deceptive message" about the capabilities of Siri.

Fazio bought his iPhone 4S in November. His class action lawsuit, filed Monday in a federal court in California says:

"Through an extensive and comprehensive nationwide marketing campaign, Defendant has conveyed the misleading and deceptive message that the iPhone 4S's Siri feature, a so-called voice-activated assistant, performs useful functions and otherwise works as advertised.

"For example, in 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.

"Promptly after the purchase of his iPhone 4S, Plaintiff realized that Siri was not performing as advertised. For instance, when Plaintiff asked Siri for directions to a certain place, or to locate a store, Siri either did not understand what Plaintiff was asking, or, after a very long wait time, responded with the wrong answer."

To be honest, issues with Siri are not unknown, particularly if the service has trouble communicating with Apple's servers. The feature is, after all, still in beta, and Apple has only released two updates to iOS 5 since the introduction of the iPhone 4S (5.0.1 and 5.1), neither of which was "advertised" as changing / improving any Siri functionality (although 5.1 added Japanese language support).

Of course, quite of bit of the changes to Siri could be made on the server, not client side, but one additional problem is that it's been reported that Siri isn't getting better, but worse. None other than Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reported in January that

"I used to ask Siri, 'What are the five biggest lakes in California?' and it would come back with the answer. Now it just misses. It gives me real estate listings. I used to ask, 'What are the prime numbers greater than 87?' and it would answer. Now instead of getting prime numbers, I get listings for prime rib, or prime real estate.

"I have a lower success rate with Siri than I do with the voice built into the Android, and that bothers me. I’ll be saying, over and over again in my car, ‘Call the Lark Creek Steak House,’ and I can’t get it done. Then I pick up my Android, say the same thing, and it’s done. Plus I get navigation. Android is way ahead on that.”

Our own experience with Siri is that it's hit-and-miss. Apple's ads do miss themselves, as well: they show a 100 percent success rate, which isn't the case. 50 percent might be more like it.

This could be the perfect target for "SNL" which recently hammered Verizon's confusing LTE ads. Lorne Michaels, are you listening?

Watch one of Apple's Siri ads below.

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