- Siri has fallen behind other voice assistants like ChatGPT and Google Bard, making her almost irrelevant in comparison.
- Siri’s lack of development and failure to live up to her potential can be attributed to a cumbersome design and difficulty in adding simple updates.
- While Siri lacks the sophisticated capabilities of AI chatbots, she still has an edge in answering queries about current information and providing humorous responses.
Hey Siri, why aren’t you better than this? Ask Apple’s voice assistant this question, and she doesn’t understand what you mean. Ask the same question to ChatGPT, and you’ll get a response such as ‘Can you tell me what specifically you’re not satisfied with so I can assist you better?’
Siri may not generate her jokes via AI, but she has plenty of hilarious human-written responses, and these are the best prompts to kick them off.
This is a nutshell, shows how far behind the pack Siri has fallen. Once seen as the cutting edge of personal assistants, Siri has stood still while other apps have caught her up, and then blown past her so far into the distance that they’re almost out of sight.
A summary of Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri assistants to help you understand what they are, what they do and what devices you can find them on.
It wasn’t meant to be this way. When Apple first debuted her, Siri was supposed to be the future; a whole new way to interact with your tech devices that would make our lives easier and allow us to talk to our devices like you would to a real person. Instead, to put it bluntly, Siri was the experiment that has yet to live up to her full potential. She’s barely developed in more than a decade, and she’s in danger of becoming a total irrelevance. How did this happen, and is this really the end for Siri?
A brief history of Siri
It seems barely believable that Siri is now a teenager. The first version of Siri was a third-party iOS app that was launched in February 2010 and was originally intended to be launched for Android and Blackberry phones, too. However, as is the Apple way, Steve Jobs saw potential in the app, and didn’t want anyone else getting their hands on it. By April 2010, Apple had acquired the company behind Siri.
A period of development followed, but when the iPhone 4S was released in October 2011, it came with a beta version of Siri on board, and Siri has been a part of every iPhone ever since. The voice assistant has also made it onto most other Apple devices too, including Macs, iPad, Apple Watches, and even AirPods.
When Siri first burst onto the scene, it was a genuinely exciting moment. The sci-fi trope of being able to talk to our devices was finally coming true right before our eyes. And while the first version of Siri was far from perfect, the potential was clearly there.
More than a decade has passed since we first met Siri, and honestly, in that time, very little has changed. Siri has a few new abilities, such as being able to control your smart home devices or run shortcuts, but the basic experience is still very much the same. Even something seemingly simple such as asking Siri how many steps you’ve done so far today has only just found its way onto Apple devices. All that early promise feels like it has been squandered.
Why hasn’t Siri made any ground-breaking developments?
It seems almost implausible that Siri hasn’t really improved at all in more than a decade, but there seems to be a compelling reason as to why that’s the case. A former Apple engineer who was given the job of working on Siri all the way back in 2014 stated that Siri had a cumbersome design that made even adding simple updates a real challenge.
The database that was underlying Siri was reportedly a huge list of data such as the names of musicians or business locations in dozens of languages. Every time a new word was added to the database, it just became more of a mess, meaning that adding even simple improvements to Siri were tasks that required years to complete. All of which has meant that Siri has stood still, while other chatbots have been taking huge strides forwards.
The chatbot competition
You’d have to have been sleeping under a rock not to have heard about ChatGPT and other similar AI chatbots. It’s no exaggeration to say that generative AI built on LLMs (large language models) has totally transformed what chatbots are capable of. Indeed, such is the acceleration of the abilities of these AI programs that national governments and supranational political unions are hastily introducing regulation of AI systems as they are seen as a potential risk to human safety.
All the attention is on generative AI and the major brands that have yet to jump into the pool. Apple is one of them, but what about Samsung?
While we’re far from reaching the point where Skynet becomes self-aware and launches our own nukes at us, the capabilities of AI chatbots put Siri to shame. Bots such as Google Bard and ChatGPT are infinitely more sophisticated than Siri is currently. Even Alexa, another voice assistant that has stagnated horribly since it was first introduced, is soon to be updated to take advantage of the power of AI so that you’ll be able to hold fluid conversations with Alexa, and she’ll be able to understand the context of your commands much more accurately.
Like ChatGPT, Bard can be used for a range of purposes, including generating writing drafts, brainstorming ideas, and chatting about general topics.
Most worryingly for Apple, competitors are already adding AI smarts to their phones. The Google Pixel 8 and Google Pixel 8 Pro are being marketed heavily on their AI capabilities, which include the ability to remove unwanted sounds from videos, boost call quality, automatically improve your photos, and even reduce spam. The AI can even read web pages to you and summarise information into key points, leaving Siri in the dust. Users are already opting to replace Siri with alternative voice assistants such as ChatGPT Voice to take advantage of the vastly superior experience.
What Siri can’t do that other AI chatbots can
Chatbots such as ChatGPT and Google Bard can hold back and forth conversations that relate back to earlier parts of the conversation, and that feel almost like you’re talking to a real person, which is already more than Siri can do. For example, try asking Siri what date it will be next Tuesday, and then follow up by asking what the weather will be like that day, and she’ll give you today’s weather with no hint of irony, completely ignoring the context of the previous query.
The new AI chatbots can do so much more, however, things that are so far beyond Siri’s reach that it’s almost laughable. For example, you can ask a generative AI chatbot to write you a cover letter or create an original poem. You can get it to explain complex subjects in a digestible format, or to solve complex math problems.
AI chatbots can write code for you or debug code you’ve already written, can write original stories on any topic you wish, and can even create original images based on whatever text you want to throw at them. In comparison, Siri seems like a baby in a room full of superheroes.
What Siri can do that other AI chatbots can’t
That’s not to say that Siri is useless. There are some things that Siri can do that AI chatbots can’t. One issue with LLMs is that they can only answer questions relating to the huge amounts of data that they’ve been fed. For example, ChatGPT 3 was trained on data that went as far as September 2021. If you ask it what happened on the 1st October 2021, it can’t tell you. Dinosaurs could have been discovered in the Amazon rainforest at the start of 2022 and ChatGPT wouldn’t know a thing about it.
In comparison, Siri is able to answer queries about current information. You can ask Siri what the score was in your favorite team’s last match, and she’ll be able to tell you. You can ask Siri what films are out at the moment, and she’ll tell you, or you can ask her about the current weather. These are all simple requests, but ones that many AI chatbots can’t answer.
Siri also has the edge when it comes to humor. AI still really sucks at jokes; just try asking an AI chatbot to come up with some original Christmas cracker jokes, and you’ll feel a lot less concerned about AI taking over the world any time soon. In comparison, Siri can provide humorous answers to a large number of queries, even if these have been written by a human.
Is this the end for Siri?
Siri may be miles behind the competition, but her time may not be up just yet. Apple is reportedly putting a serious amount of money into developing its own AI and while the company clearly has a huge amount of catching up to do, it’s almost guaranteed that we will see some kind of AI added to Apple devices in the not-too-distant future.
A version of Siri that can harness the power of generative AI and combine that with the ability to ask questions about current topics, local businesses, or personal data could finally give us the Siri we were hoping for when she was first released all those years ago.