Friday, December 2, 2011

iPhone Siri and PPA

Apples's new iPhone 4S with Siri, the voice activated answering system to find information has problems. Granted that's normal with new consumer technology when first released in devices, but what Apple has done is a load of cow pasture material. And while I own an iPhone 4G and a first-generation iPad, both of which I like, I find Apple's failure to release Siri with this problem and failure to fix it by offering excuse simply what it is, bullshit.

And that's the report when users ask to locate family planning clinics or women's reproductive healthcare services, the phone answers with other destination, clinics far away or false answers, and does not provide one correct answer to help the person who asked the question. Apple has said it's just the beginning and like many other problems, it will be fixed, it time. That's not good enough. Not for Apple and especially not for women.

This clearly raises the issues what Apple knew of this problem, because clearly any testing would have discovered it as it is a question many women, and some men, would ask, like family planning, birth control, etc., and even abortion. They had to know this was a problem, and denials don't cover the reality. Siri can find all sorts of information for all sorts of extraneous questions but not a simple useful one for women.

Apple needs to come forward with the timetable when the problem will be resolved, and soon on both, and why this problem was allowed to continue into the first production of the first iPhone 4S. This is not a small matter which you put on the list of problems to solve for the teams working on them. This is a significant and important problem which needs an immediate answer to the public and a fix for the iPhone. Not sometime when, but now and not a moment too soon.

If they don't believe that, then have all the female employees at Apple use it to find the nearest family planning clinic, the closest source for birth control information, providers or services, and the closest Planned Parenthood America clinic in need of help. And then see what they get and what they tell their employer.


  1. Well, I'm more concerned about SIRI's reaction to the "I've been raped" statement, actually. It sounds like the SIRI programmers treat that as a joke when it should direct one to the local police.

    The reason I'm not so bothered by SIRI not knowing the nearest abortion clinic is because SIRI doesn't know a lot of businesses, in my experience. It's a crap shoot as to whether it knows anything or not.

    On the other hand, I'm also concerned about the 4s or possibly iOs 5 software (don't know which) dropping out of 3G when coverage is actually available. There is some discussion about this on the Apple support forums and I submitted visual proof (see my flickr stream: ) but so far we haven't seen any reactions, not even a "it's not a problem."

    But abortion clinics ...well, I wouldn't start thinking it was a right wing plot unless someone found that abortion clinics were de-listed in every city. Otherwise, it's coincidental.

  2. I agree, Siri is not ready for primetime and Apple should have said, "I'm sorry I don't have that information yet." or something similar, but as far as "abortion clinic" goes, ask a woman who needs one. Getting bad directions is worse than none at all.

    As for reception, I usually get different reception from my iPhone 4G and iPad 1 sitting next to each other, even at home. The iPhone tends to be better than the iPad. What's ironic to me is when you get poor reception at a cafe near the AT&T store.

  3. Of course, "abortion clinic" is an abstract concept? I mean, do any of these places call themselves that The only one near here doesn't go by that designation, it's Lovejoy Women's Health Center and the closest thing to saying they do abortions is "Reproductive Services" - but that's what they do. Siri needs to be programmed for some of these abstractions.

    Also, it needs to be reprogrammed so it doesn't assume that rape is a joke. But other than that...

    I still love the concept, but I kind of grew up wanting to live in a Star Trek world, you know? I want Majel Barrett Roddenberry to tell me what's happening in the world. :)

    And there's still that other technical issue I'm having: I'm one of the people who've had problems with the 4s dropping out of 3g, as I mentioned. I'm hoping it's software and not hardware related, as we're also dealing with iOs 5 versus 4.3 on my ipad 2. I'm just in an area where it's a real bother: I'm suddenly in "o" while my ipad has a steady 3 bars of 3G. That shouldn't happen. But it does, and it means that the data stuff doesn't work, although calls can still be made.

  4. Here is an interesting article on what Siri does and doesn't understand:,2817,2394834,00.asp

    You're right, it still has a ways to go. I still love the concept, however. I guess I'm just a trans-human at heart. :)