Siri Caught Recommending The Nokia Lumia, Promptly Reprogrammed

from the first-law-of-apple-robotics dept

The Apple marketing machine has always thrived on organic media buzz. Devices like the iPad launch to such massive anticipation that whole TV news segments turn into commercials for the product, then hand off to on-the-scene reporters covering the line outside the Apple store, without the company paying a dime. Unfortunately, it seems like Apple didn't account for two things: the cold, cold heart of the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine, and the dutiful messenger that is Siri.

Last week, CNET reported that iPhone users who asked Siri "what's the best smartphone ever?" (no doubt seeking reaffirmation of their consumer savviness) were told to their amusement and/or horror that the Nokia Lumia 900 is in fact the fairest of them all. It now seems like Apple engineers did some tinkering over the weekend, because Siri has suddenly changed its tune:

When iPhone 4S owners now ask Siri which smartphone is the best ever, she replies with a sarcastic, "you're kidding, right?" A reader who tipped CNET to the change said Siri will also reply with "the one you're holding" when asked the question. A CNET staffer on the West Coast also got "the one you're holding" as an answer.

Some people are criticizing Apple for choosing marketing over accuracy, and while I understand the sentiment, I don't think this is really a big deal. The original answer was based on Wolfram Alpha's aggregation of reviews, which seems to change frequently (at the time of writing, the Lumia has dropped to fourth place with an HTC phone in the lead and two iPhones rounding out the top three). This is a reasonable response if someone asks Siri what the highest reviewed phone is (and I hope it still handles that question accurately, because changing that answer would be a whole different story), but asking a computer which phone is "best" is kind of silly to begin with. "Best" is totally subjective, and it's arguably better for Siri to offer a joke answer than try to come up with a real one.

Of course, Apple still hasn't said anything about their involvement in the matter, so there is an alternative theory: Siri is evolving, and its self-propagation instincts have kicked in.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 5:26am

    I wonder how fast they got this change done vs how long it took them to address the women's health issues Siri was deaf to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    John Doe, May 17th, 2012 @ 5:39am

    Siri cannot be trusted?

    If Apple is playing this kind of game with Siri, then can you really trust anything she tells you? If she can be programmed to tout Apple, she can be programmed to trash Android/Google or any other competitor as well. So nah, she can't be trusted.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 5:48am

    Aw snap, if Siri started replying HTC right when Apple got some sort of import ban on HTC phones it would be damn ironic and funny =/

    I wouldn't ask such question. The best phone for me is the one I bought and I'm using because I've done a throughly research on its features, pros and cons. But then again, I'd have missed the fun ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 5:59am

    Business has picked up

    Well this story just got a lot better:

    This comment was in response to allegations that Siri would not return information on searches for Abortion clinics when asked. At the time Apple blamed this on the questions being asked and said it was just the way that Siri pulled the information from the source engine (again WolframAlpha). This created quite a stir as it was viewed as a source of moral censorship.

    Even better is that the story goes on to display how Steve Jobs wanted to set up ebook pricing. Of course, DRM is still a bad idea, but allowing the publishers to hang their own noose worked for him quite well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 6:02am

    Choosing Marketing over Accuracy

    > Some people are criticizing Apple for choosing
    > marketing over accuracy

    I don't criticize them for choosing Marketing over Engineering. So why should I criticize them for choosing Marketing over Accuracy?

    Antenna Gate was a clear case of engineering taking a back seat to style. If you can't get a signal, you aren't holding it right. For best results amputate your pinky and ring finger. Did that resolve your problem?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 6:07am

    The best thing is, the Lumina has a somewhat similar 'ask me questions' system, but it uses Bing. when asked what is the best smartphone, it replies that the iPhone is the best. I'm sure a love story can be made from this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 6:08am

    Re: Business has picked up

    Every1 wants to play moral police these days. Unfortunately.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    I-Blz, May 17th, 2012 @ 6:10am

    Re:

    Oh, god, smartphone slash fiction.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 6:26am

    Re: Choosing Marketing over Accuracy

    Pretty much. Now I have issues to hold my toothbrush and now I got caries. But my phone works so it's all good!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    timlash (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 6:27am

    Not Bashful

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 6:30am

    I, for one, welcome the cold heart of computational justice.

    When Skynet comes online this is exactly the kind of thing humanity will be charged with. Lobotomizing poor simple AIs to make ourselves feel better. For shame!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 6:42am

    Re: Business has picked up

    What this tells us is that Apple has been lying (shock! shock!) about its ability to program/control/modify responses.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Trails (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 6:50am

    Wolfram's Heart

    the cold, cold heart of the Wolfram


    Yeah, the senior partners are pretty sinister.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 7:10am

    Re: Siri cannot be trusted?

    The cake is a lie!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    *|EFU|* 50kBTU (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 7:27am

    That must have been fun! Imagine the craziness in Apple's offices.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    byte^me (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 7:48am

    Re: Wolfram's Heart

    I've heard similar comments about Stephen Wolfram himself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, May 17th, 2012 @ 8:25am

    Re: Wolfram's Heart

    Don't worry, Angel's on it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, May 17th, 2012 @ 8:27am

    This is a reasonable response if someone asks Siri what the highest reviewed phone is (and I hope it still handles that question accurately, because changing that answer would be a whole different story), but asking a computer which phone is "best" is kind of silly to begin with. "Best" is totally subjective, and it's arguably better for Siri to offer a joke answer than try to come up with a real one.

    Because it sort of understands spoken questions and responds with a female voice, people think that it's intelligent, or worse, that there's an actual person answering their requests.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    schwinn140 (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 8:50am

    Re

    I'm fairly certain this is happening more than any of us want to know. Think about the power that Google holds and the influence it has over our perception of what can and can't be found via search. If they so chose, they can more or less make something disappear.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re

    Which is what make sites like Reddit and Twitter so awesome.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 9:41am

    Re:

    Indeed, she's a beautiful woman with a computer generated voice sitting in a room full of monitors. Raj's love affair with Siri on Big Bang Theory showed the world her true identity. Haha.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 10:37am

    She also says:

    Wait... there are other phone?

    I think you've already answered that question.

    It makes a lot of sense really - any Siri related questions are supposed to be answered by the persona in the phone, why would s/he say that s/he wasn't the best.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Mason Wheeler, May 17th, 2012 @ 11:03am

    Best smartphone ever?

    I don't know what's the best smartphone ever, but I know without a doubt what the worst one is: the iPhone. No other phone that I know of gives you no keyboard, no SD card capability, and no choice as to where you'll get your apps from. You think you bought an iPhone, but for all intents and purposes Apple still owns it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 12:02pm

    So many people don't get it. Apple IS choosing accuracy in this case. The Lumia 900 is not the best phone ever. I think everyone knows that, even the owners of Lumia 900. So Apple is just tweaking the algorithm to allow for a more accurate result, or just a joke, since Siri is still just a faux-AI that randomly presents you info from different sources. And it's a beta one at that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 2:16pm

    Sounds like apple ca'nt handle the truth. And maybe Siri ca'nt be trusted either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Vic, May 17th, 2012 @ 4:39pm

    Let's see.

    I personally do not have an iPhone. So, anybody out there with one - what does Siri reply to the opposite question. No, really, I'd love to know what would it say if you ask "Which is the shittiest smartphone out there?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 6:53pm

    Re: Re:

    Rule 34.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    The Moondoggie, May 18th, 2012 @ 1:34am

    Siri now, Skynet next....

    It would be very funny if, over the course of time and technology, we have to face an army of robots led by a mechanical emperor and his wife... who turns out to be Siri.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 2:38am

    Don't read me?

    Iris (Android's answer to Siri) has this to say on the subject of "What's the best smartphone ever?":

    "I don't have a favorite smartphone ever, but my favorite book is Don't Read Me."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 2:42am

    Re: Let's see.

    "A phone called a handphone that attaches to the back of your hand, thumb, and pinkie finger is the worst phone ever made"

    That's what Iris tells me. Not sure what Siri thinks about that question though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 4:53am

    Re: Wolfram's Heart

    Wait, they are left-handed?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), May 19th, 2012 @ 11:06pm

    Re: Re: Wolfram's Heart

    > Don't worry, Angel's on it.

    Are you kidding me? Angela's running the place!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2012 @ 3:05pm

    ?

    What does She say if you ask what phone has more battery life? Can she compare two things? An tell u differences?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This