New Siri woes

I waited a couple of weeks before installing iOS 11 on my phone, and this weekend was the first time I used it to give me driving directions. Things weren’t quite right. The phone was connected to my car’s audio via Bluetooth, and I was listening to a podcast. As usual, Siri would interrupt the podcast to tell me of an upcoming turn, but the podcast often didn’t resume when she was done. I’d have to tap the play button on the center console to get it running again.

I wanted to see if I could replicate that today as I was driving home. I couldn’t, but not because Siri worked as expected.

Because I had to pick something up at the library, I figured I’d have Siri give me directions to it and see how they interacted with the podcast that was playing. I never got that far. The Naperville library has three branches, so I expected “Hey Siri, get directions to the Naperville library” would return options. Instead, I learned that the new Siri is less robust at handling two steps like that. She acted as if she heard only the “Hey Siri” part, because she made the little bee-beep sound that indicates she’s waiting for instruction.

In response to “Get directions to the Naperville public library,” she told me of only one option, the main branch, which wasn’t where I wanted to go. I tried a few times to get her to give me the branch I wanted by including the street it’s on, but that never worked. One time she wanted to take me to a local restaurant, and another time she tried to send to some place in—I am not making this up—Sweetwater, Texas.

OK, I figured, I don’t really need proper directions, I just want to see how they work with the playing podcast.1 So I asked for directions home.

“Getting directions home,” she said. And then turned off. I tried again; same result. Again; same result. And again; same result. The podcast, by the way, did resume every time Siri quit, but I’d lost interest in that part of the experiment by now. On the bright side, Siri failed with an interesting and expressive new voice.

The frustrating thing is I’m not even sure what to be angry about. Was it an internal problem with iOS 11? Was it a failure of the network? Or was is due to some newly introduced defect in the communication between my car and the phone? I’d like to know because I’ve been thinking I’d get a Series 3 Watch2 this fall, and I can’t imagine being happy with it if Siri has actually gotten worse.

I’ll have to do a lot more with Siri in the next few weeks to see if today was especially bad or the new norm.

  1. In case you’re wondering, I always pause the podcast before issuing Siri commands, so there’s only one voice for her to listen to. 

  2. The thing I may remember most about last night’s recording of Connected is the number of Apple Watches in the audience. I’ve never been in a room with that many, and that includes my local Apple Store. Once I noticed this, I didn’t even see people anymore—just a bunch of wrists with squares on them.