Apple hit with Siri suit over what the program can really do

March 13, 2012

Ever find yourself frustrated with how smoothly Siri seems to work for the folks in Apple’s commercials but not for you?

A New York man has filed a class-action suit against Apple, saying that the company has been “misleading and deceptive” about what the iPhone 4S virtual assistant can do.

“For example,” the suit reads, “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.” According to the plaintiff, Frank M. Fazio, the commercials have misled him to buy the iPhone 4S to get Siri but that he has had a lot of trouble using the software. The lawsuit claims that Apple’s advertisements are “fiction.”

Apple declined to comment on pending litigation.

The company has said — as the lawsuit notes — that Siri is a beta product and that the software is evolving. Personally, I haven’t had that much trouble getting Siri to set appointments and alarms for me, though I have trained myself to request that Siri “Search the Web for...” because that’s normally where I’m directed. Other bloggers have documented some problems I’ve had with Siri, and voice-control software in general, including that sometimes they just have no idea what you’re saying. (See: Gizmodo’s Mat Honan on Siri’s failed attempt to play “coal train.”)

Still, I had no trouble getting Siri to do some of the things the lawsuit mentions, such as in the commercial “Rock God” where Siri shows the protagonist how to play a B-minor ninth. And, unlike Fazio, I’ve had very few issues setting reminders and appointments.

The company can probably excuse a lot with the “sequences shortened” disclaimer it puts on its ads, including, perhaps, shortening to exclude repeating one’s self.

Yet while I agree that Siri lacks features I would like to have — such as the ability to launch apps — and that the ads portray a much smoother experience than the real-life product, it’s probably a stretch to call it “fiction.”

The company has also had some problems with its latest language addition, Japanese, Kotaku reported. Some complain that the program only seems to understand basic Japanese and is far behind the voice assistant designed by the major Japanese carrier DoCoMo when used by native speakers.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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