Thursday, March 28, 2024

Giving Up on Siri and HomePod

Jim Dalrymple:

Siri has done what no person could for 30 years: Make me stop using an Apple product.

I am giving up on my 8 HomePods/minis out of the sheer frustration of trying to use Siri.

I’ve been in tech for 30 years and this is one of the worst technologies ever and only getting worse

The Dalrymple Report:

We also talk about my continued frustration with Siri and why I’m so upset with Apple.

Storm Garelli:

When the HomePods were first launched, Apple said the onboard Siri had deep knowledge of music.

5 years later it still pronounces live albums as if “live” rhymes with “give”. And it still thinks Rush had an album called “Two Thousand, One Hundred, and Twelve”.

Most basically, it just doesn’t work very well for requesting music, even for purchases that it actually has access to.

Christian Selig:

While I’m complaining about Siri devices, it still blows my mind that HomePod, a product that has existed for over half a decade and is marketed as a speaker for your Mac, cannot pause audio in Apple’s own apps without a 5 second delay

Josh Johnson:

I honestly think Apple should kill the Siri brand. I’m not sure it can recover from the universal understanding that it’s just not good. Launch an LLM-powered assistant that actually does things, call it something else. Let Siri die.

Ty Belisle:

Man, you’re right. I’ve thought they should make a very bold “Siri 2.0” announcement, but it’s true the name Siri is so spoiled that they should ditch it. Would also allow them to come up with a new 3-syllable name (like “Alexa” - less accidental triggers, but still one word).


Update (2024-03-29): Craig Grannell:

You know Apple has a tech problem when your 9yo is complaining about the HomePod you bought to replace a first gen Echo. (She’s unhappy how Siri “isn’t fun”, “doesn’t give you good answers” and that it is triggered far too often when you’re just talking. I’m also deeply unimpressed with it from a playback standpoint. Takes far too long to respond to devices.

Nick Heer:

Of course, that is not what Siri is tripped-up by — it transcribes me perfectly most of the time. But it delivers utter nonsense.

Sometimes, after I ask Siri to reply to a message, it will ask which contact details to use instead of just sending the message to the phone number or email address from which it came. Just now, I asked Siri how much three tablespoons of butter weighs, and it responded in litres. This is basic shit.


Something I cannot help but wonder is whether Siri would still be so bad if users could pick something else. That goes for any platform and any product, by the way — what if you could pick Google’s assistant on an Amazon device, or Siri on a Google device? I am not suggesting this is how it ought to be. But what if these voice assistants actually had to compete with each other directly instead of in the context of the products in which they are sold? Would that inspire more rapid development, higher quality, and more confidence from users?

John Gruber:

First impressions really matter, but in Siri’s case, it’s over a decade of lived experience. If I were at Apple and believed the company finally had a good voice assistant experience, I’d push for a new brand.

See also: The iPhoneography Podcast and The Dalrymple Report.

Update (2024-04-01): Mike Rockwell:

To add my two cents, I’ve disabled “Hey Siri” on every device in the house. I didn’t really find myself triggering it accidentally often, but any number of false positives is enough to be annoying.

Update (2024-04-11): Jim Dalrymple:

So I was one of the morons that bought into the “you can use HomePods for your home theater” bullshit. Now I’m stuck with HomePods in my home theater.

Update (2024-04-24): Tim Hardwick:

Enthusiasm for Siri has undeniably waned in the intervening years. Despite regular updates and improvements from Apple, Siri has struggled to keep pace with its advancing rivals, and in an era of generative AI chatbots and large language models, Siri's failings have only been magnified. Issues ranging from misinterpreted commands to limited contextual understanding have not only hindered Siri's usability but have also led to an almost universal perception of the virtual assistant as a source of user frustration rather than assistance. This persistent underperformance begs the question: Is it time for Apple to kill Siri and start over?

11 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I've had some troubles with Siri understanding some things, especially with trying to navigate my music library. Sometimes it fails even when I'm very exact with what I want to play, but generalities work fine ("Siri, play some Killers"). Outside of music, I really don't use Siri as much as I thought I would.

But as for giving up on it, I feel like now is the wrong time to be making that decision. Rumors have it that Siri is going to get a major update at WWDC, so if I was considering abandoning it, I would at least wait to see what the summer brings.


I hope there is a name change. I hate not being able to say "seriously."

I have 3 HomePods in my house. Over the last year, I've simply turned off "Hey Siri". Her ability to seemingly be triggered by all sorts of false requests, and her inability to respond consistently to my responses frustrated me to no end. I would make requests for 3 simple things:

1. Controlling Homekit devices.
2. Setting timers.
3. Asking for the current weather.

I feel like those three things are bottom of the barrel assistant tasks, and got worse and worse over time. With StandBy mode on iOS 17, and lockscreen widgets, I don't need to ask Siri for this kind of info as much any more. My HomePods have simply been relegated to AirPlay speakers.

Semi-OT regarding Siri:

> HomePod, a product that has existed for over half a decade and is marketed as a speaker for your Mac, cannot pause audio in Apple’s own apps without a 5 second delay

Khaby Lame should do a video about this. 1) Take a HomePod, 2) stick an HDMI/minijack/whatever cable in, 3) there's no step three.

Instead, Apple massively overcomplicated this for the sake of Jony Ive "pristine"ness. Even if macOS supported AirPlay 2 (I believe that's still only the case for the Music app?), it would still have more latency than a physical connection, which makes it a poor choice for system alerts (and therefore not _that_ practical as Mac default speaker).

HomePod not offering wired audio in is ultimately why I decided not to buy one. Bummer.

Back to Siri: honestly, even if it worked extremely well, which it does not, I'm not sure if the whole Siri / Alexa / Cortana (RIP) / Google Assistant thing was a bit of a hype that is past its peak. I still use Siri to set timers on my Watch or Mac (whereas, on iPhone, Control Center is more convenient for that; weird inconsistency there). Works fine most of the time. But so many things more complicated than that, I just don't even _want_ to do with an audio interface?

The Rush 2112 thing surprised me considering Siri pronounces Led Zeppelin’s D’yer Mak’er way better than my Google Home.

What!!? No complaints about Siri and CarPlay and Music? Okay, I'll go:

Me: "Hey Siri play {song by some band}"
Siri: "I'm sorry there is a problem with Apple Music."
Me: (grumbling, muttering 'Fuck you, Siri, that song is on my phone, just play it.')
Me: "Hey Siri play {the song by the group some band}"
Siri: "Playing {song} by {band} now" ... wait like 10 seconds for the song to start.

This is dumb. If Siri can't find my song, then Siri should give me a list of close matches so I can see what Siri is hearing and, maybe, reach over and tap the correct one while driving.

Me: "Hey Siri play {song by some band}"
Siri: "I'm sorry there is a problem with Apple Music."
Me: (grumbling, muttering 'Fuck you, Siri, that song is in my Library, just play it.')
Me: "Hey Siri play {the song by the group some band}"
Siri: "I'm sorry there is a problem with Apple Music."

What's going on here? There is no a problem with Apple Music. The app works fine, but cellular data is turned off to save precious bandwidth. I don't steam my music because Apple Music will waste bandwidth downloading album art. There is no option to stream low quality music, but there should be. I just want to hear the song while driving, I don't need to hear a high bitrate version or to see a high rez picture of the album, I am driving after all. My eyes are going to be on the road not the fucking album. Ah, but alas, there is a problem with Apple Music, right Siri?

Calling family, again, through CarPlay is also a garbage experience. My wife and son have Korean names where what appears to English speakers to be a short i sound is actually a long e sound ... and despite entering phonetical pronunciations in the contacts app for both of them, Siri is worthless for this.

Me: "Hey Siri, call Thumbelina." (the /i/ is a meant to be a long e sound)
Siri: "I'm sorry, I can't find that name."
Me: (grumbling, muttering 'You fucking git, Siri, why the fuck do you exist?.')
Me: "Hey Siri, call Thumbel lin ah."
Siri: "Calling Thumbel lin ah now."

Siri is the ultimate abandonware product. AI sprinkles are not going to fix this kind of stuff. Siri is and always will be Bixby's dumb cousin.

I gave up on HomePod the instant I saw there were no audio (or even power) plugs. I’ve been using an Echo Input for well over 5 years and it has never failed to understand what to do with the limited subset of lights/appliances I give it access to.

And since I still cannot get a HomePod “properly” in Portugal without grey market imports, and voice recognition is finally well tuned for local setups, now that my Echo is getting flaky I am just going to set up a local system (I tried three years ago and it was flaky, but with whisper.cpp and some restricted - non-LLM - inference I can already do a fair bit).

The Siri lifecycle has always been the same; get a new device or major OS release. have it work pretty well for around three months, and it becomes a drooling idiot when you explicitly say “turn off the dining room light” - it then asks me “which one” and presents me with a list of smart outlets from across the house, or shows me a list of movies it found on the Internet.

(And all my voice activated shortcuts break. Every time.)

The thing that pains me the most is that this is not about noise or device audio capture-the intent model is fundamentally broken where it regards context, location and targets, and that is definitely not a major AI problem to solve (it can all run on device now).

Siri is just not really being developed in any way that matters. It is just another spherical cow like AirPlay and Continuity, but without any real product management behind it.

Siri is surprisingly useful with the Apple TV. Simple commands as “jump thirty seconds” or “subtitles off” or “switch off” were all what it took to make me use it regularly for the first time. Searching titles also is useful and superior alternative of typing text with the remote.

Hey siri, open garage. You need to unlock your phone first. - hey siri open my cars boot, you need to unlock your phone first.

That’s it no use.

Mac Folklore Radio

An amusing Siri fail from 2018.

"I forgot to get the car [...] until this morning while on a bus, I passed said restaurant and as soon as I was clear, the phone reminded me to get the car."


As I've said for the last ten years: Apple is living out its Microsoft decade(s), busily trying to dominate dozens of markets in which it has no competence.

Last time I tried enabling Siri was when Shortcuts was released. Roughly a 50% success rate at activating shortcuts via Siri. I then turned off Siri and haven’t missed it since then.

An aside: Sometimes using the Shortcuts widget runs the previously-run shortcut instead of the shortcut that I tapped, even if the previously-run shortcut is not in the widget.

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