Users still lack faith in Siri after 2 years

When Apple rolled out iOS 7 last month, the company finally dropped the "beta" tag on its digital assistant Siri, first introduced to the world as the centerpiece of the iPhone 4S.

That was two years and two iPhones ago, so Apple has had a considerable amount of time to make Siri better after some initial disappointment, a few embarrassing hiccups, and even the filing of a class-action lawsuit accusing Apple of false advertising.

But it turns out that a whole lot of people still think Apple "oversold" Siri's voice-recognition capabilities, according to a recent survey by Intelligent Voice.

The London-based financial software firm found that 46 per cent of Americans it polled had qualms about how Apple marketed Siri over the past few years. What's more, 44 per cent of respondents characterised the digital assistant's accuracy as "hit or miss" or even worse.

"Voice recognition is an emerging technology that's been emerging for 30 years. We need to be careful that we sell what is possible, and it seems we're not doing that," said Nigel Cannings, chief technology officer at Intelligent Voice. "Star Trek communication with computers is still a long way off. With the release of iOS 7, Apple has dropped the 'beta' tag for Siri, but the need for an Internet connection, as well as issues with transcription, do leave open to question whether that was a wise idea."

There's a big caveat with this poll. Intelligent Voice asked 2,330 US consumers if they'd ever used Siri, and just over 15 per cent replied in the affirmative. So the number of respondents weighing in on all matters Siri here is pretty small, which is reflected in the whopping eight-point margin of error on the false advertising question.

Still, it's pretty clear that a significant number of US consumers don't think Siri is all Apple has made it out to be. Just 12.7 per cent of Siri users pegged the digital assistant as "extremely accurate," though 43.3 per cent did say the software was "quite accurate."

But 29.3 per cent of respondents felt Siri's accuracy was "hit and miss," 3.3 per cent called it "not very good," and 11.3 percent characterized the digital assistant as "bad" at fulfilling its promised duties.

"All told, not great news for Apple, but probably worse news for the voice recognition industry," Cannings concluded. "We sell it like it's magic, but ... [t]he sooner we are honest with people about what can really be achieved, the more chance we have of adoption. Back in the early days of OCR, we only got 50 per cent accuracy, but that was 100 per cent more than people had the day before. Perhaps we should reset people's expectations as to what continuous speech applications can manage out of the box and in the wild."

The poll comes shortly after the voice of Siri was revealed as Georgia-based voiceover actress Susan Bennett.