IPhone owners not Siri-ous about their virtual assistants

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-22 19:38:03


Siri's voice command understands only the most perfectly elocuted Putonghua. Photo: CFP
Siri's voice command understands only the most perfectly elocuted Putonghua. Photo: CFP

Siri, the virtual assistant on the iPhone 4S and 5 editions, has had about a year to prove her worth. The voice-controlled feature was launched as the next step in hands-free smartphone technology.

But the gimmick seems to have worn off. Chinese iPhone owners don't seem that thrilled about the virtual assistant anymore, at least not compared to when it first came out, because Siri can't complete more complicated tasks than looking up the weather or reading texts.

"My mom bought the iPhone 4S, and I was really looking forward to Siri," said Song Ge, a 20-year-old junior studying commerce at Beijing Foreign Studies University. "The biggest selling point of the iPhone 4S is probably Siri."

However, after she played with the phone, she grew disappointed.

"I needed to press the home key for a long time or raise the phone up to my ear before I could use Siri to perform tasks for me. If I have the time to do these two things, why do I need Siri? I might as well find information or do these things myself," she said.

Even with the Chinese Siri, which can be obtained by updating the iPhone 4S to iOS 6.0, or by purchasing an iPhone 5, is found to be not that popular among young people.

Song Yuyang, a 21-year-old Beijinger studying labor and social security at Zhejiang University in East China's Zhejiang Province, said Siri doesn't do much for him.

"The voice recognition is low. It only supports Putonghua, and you'd have to be pretty good - like a broadcaster," he said.

Song Ge agreed, saying compared with the English version, Siri's Chinese counterpart is even worse.

"With Chinese, you'd have to break down each syllable in order for it to hear correctly. But I feel that the function is useless. Who would annunciate word by word questions such as what the temperature is in public?" she said.

Besides voice recognition, users noted other flaws as well.

"I heard you could search for brothels a while back. That was its only interesting feature," said Song Yuyang. "But after news reports came out on that topic, it got banned. Now to me, it's just a decoration."

Song Ge said Siri doesn't help her as much as she would like to get help from a virtual assistant.

"You make a request out of its service range, then it tells you it will search for the task online," she said.

Zhang Meng, a programmer for jumei.com, China's first online cosmetics group-purchasing website, has participated in the development of Android and Symbian systems, and said the idea behind Siri isn't new, but Apple sold it well.

"Siri is based on the concept of voice recognition and search. Google has had it for a long time. Siri is a new integrated concept," he said. "Apple is good at packaging and marketing and made the idea popular, not like Google, which will only publish a blog piece whenever the company develops a new function."

Overall, Zhang doesn't think Siri is a new, innovative technology. Apple just integrated existing resources well, he said.

However, he does think the voice-command virtual assistant is becoming a trend and brings ease to people's lives.

"Convenience can be brought to people during a time they are not able to operate on the cellphone, such as when they are driving and they need to call or text message. Also, such assistants can aid people with disabilities," he said.

Zhang also warned reliance on virtual assistants might lead to the other extreme.

"For example, because your virtual assistant has all your information, mail, text messages, schedule or meeting arrangements, if a malware hacks it and steals all your private information, it'll be disastrous," he said.

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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