“Hey Siri”

Sat, Aug 7, 2021 5-minute read

I have an axe to grind with Siri.

I use Siri every day to time my yoga routine. These are short reps of 30s poses. It takes about 30 mins to complete them. I searched for a good timer a couple of times in the past and then gave them up altogether once I figured I could use Siri to set up the timer for me.

On a good day, it’s all good. But on most days, Siri is deaf. Not just any deaf, she’s so deaf that I’ll be screaming at the top of my voice to get her to effing wake up. Eventually I figured, maybe if I used a headset, things might get better. So I picked up a $75 Beats headset. Excellent headset actually. Stays snug fit in my ear – something the default iPhone headset doesn’t for me. Apparently, I don’t have the generic ear that the rest of the world has. Turns out, though, Siri doesn’t care if I used a Beats headset because it still depends on hearing me properly. Incidentally, Beats has a small button that I can press to summon Siri. The problem for me, though, is that I need to start the timer after I get into the pose. When I am in the pose, I can’t move around my hands much. So summoning Siri with a button is a non-starter.

Meanwhile I gifted my wife a pair of Airpods last year. Siri works much better with her Airpods. I briefly considered picking a pair of Airpods myself. But like I mentioned, I don’t have the ear for it. I’d have to keep my neck in a certain stiff pose to ensure the stupid thing doesn’t fall off my ear. Then last month, my wife gifted me a pair of Airpods Pro. These ones have the same kind of fit as the Beats. They have some noise cancelling added in and charge a whole $100 extra. So I now have a full setup and Siri should ideally hear me better now, no? No.

Siri continues to remain deaf. Additionally, noise cancellation implies I speak in an even lower voice making it all the more difficult for Siri to hear me and respond. And then there are times I am screaming because I think Siri should have listened by now. But in reality, the environment is so noisy and my noise cancellation is pretty blissful and keeps me unaware. Now I don’t know if I feel good that the noise cancellation works well or bad that I am making it difficult for myself to get Siri to do my errand…

Anyways, that brings me to the list of issues I have with Siri that I hope APPL will solve someday before it is too late.

  1. If I have airpods on and I say “hey siri”, there is no effing confirmation whether Siri heard me or not. It’s not that difficult to ring a bell – the usual siri bell. I need to look at the device to see if Siri heard me. That’s not very good in the way of UX.
  2. When the timer goes off, there should be a way to let it stop after a few rings. It needn’t even be configurable. Just allow me to say it needn’t ring forever and you decide, based on all your expertise, how many seconds is ideal before stopping it. Now, I know timer app probably doesn’t consider the exercise crowd too much. But it’s not like all your apps are designed for specific sets of users, anyway.
  3. I can usually restart the timer by saying “hey siri, repeat the timer”. The problem is super weird and highly non-sensical. If I effing restart the timer, why does the previous timer still keep ringing? I restarted it, remember? I don’t think this requires any machine learning or AI to do. Just stop the effing timer before you restart it. By the way, I tried “hey siri, restart the timer” and “hey siri, reset the timer”. They all do the same thing. Additionally, saying “restart” is the worst. Siri will occasionally not hear the “re” and will ask me how long the timer should run! With all the learning, my phone nudges me to start a timer for 30s every day around the time I exercise. So you do know I need it for 30s. Why don’t you take a damn guess?
  4. Ideally, there should be a way by which Siri is always on. As in, I can speak and it just listens and acts on it. Now, am not a privacy freak. So I don’t mind some folks in AAPL listening in, if it means they can get the damn thing to work for me. In fact, I can send you a recording, personally, if you need it. Whatever you need, to make this thing work.
  5. Lastly, it looks like setting the timer requires an internet connection. I live in Singapore and internet here is pretty very good. I didn’t skimp on my plan either. But as someone who worked on routers for a period of my life, I understand why wifi will decide to randomly drop some packets here and there (QoS, you see). But if the router decided to drop traffic from my phone amidst a timer request, Siri will just give up. Really? I really didn’t ask you to research the timer. Just effing start the one on my device. Apparently, AAPL is going to have an update that can detect child abuse images on the device. Great work! But while you are at it, can you teach the stupid thing to start a timer without an internet connection?

While I continue dealing with this every day, I have resorted to some meditation to take these out of my head and frequently flush out the anger against my device and Siri. Frankly, the rest of the integration is fantastic. The way Airpods move between devices based on whoever is running the audio is just fantastic. And I don’t really ask much of Siri. I just need it to get me a timer that I can depend on for my exercise.

If any of you have had better luck getting Siri to do your bidding, do let me know 🙂