Why The New iPad Doesn’t Have Siri

Why The New iPad Doesn’t Have Siri

Don't expect to see this anytime soon.

Before Apple unveiled the new iPad on Wednesday, no one was quite positive what Apple would announce. It seemed pretty sure that the iPad 3 (as it was being called then) would have a Retina Display, but would it have an A5X processor or an A6 processor? 3G or LTE? 512MB of RAM or 1GB of RAM. Would it be thinner or thicker? And what would it be called: the iPad 3 or iPad HD? (Everyone got the name wrong: it’s just called the “new iPad” now.)

One thing few people had any doubt about was that Siri would be making her way to iPad this year… which is why Siri’s absence on the new iPad counted as probably the biggest disappointment of the entire event.

Why would Apple leave Siri out of the new iPad?

It all comes down to two things.

The first is that Siri requires an Internet connection to work, and with the iPad, Apple can’t count on an Internet connection being present at all times. With the iPhone 4S, you always have internet: either you’re connected to a local WiFi network, or you’re slurping in 3G data from your carrier. Siri, then, can always “phone home” to Apple’s servers; unless those servers are totally down, Siri rarely fails.

The problem with the iPad, though, is that Apple sells two varieties of tablet: WiFi-only models and 4G models. Even with the 4G models, though, Apple can’t count on an internet connection at all times because the device isn’t linked to a wireless carrier contract: it’s pay-as-you-go. In fact, many people only pay for wireless internet on their iPads when they truly need it, like when they’re away from home and traveling.

What this all adds up to is that on any given iPad, Apple can’t guarantee that a user making a long press of the home button will be able to get an answer from Siri without her failing catastrophically. And that’s a problem because Siri is baked into the very core of the OS.

Apple could, of course, explain to everyone that Siri will only work with an Internet connection, but Cupertino tends to not like these types of solutions: they either want something to work for everyone, or no one. In fact, if you don’t have Internet connectivity on your iPhone 4S for any reason, Siri already explains that it can’t work without 3G or WiFi access… but it’s an extremely rare circumstance. With the iPad, Siri would be coughing up this message a huge chunk of the time. Unacceptable.

But let’s say for a second that Apple did think that was acceptable. There’s another reason why Apple didn’t put Siri in the new iPad.

Siri’s broken.

That’s going to be a contentious statement, but it’s true. Siri — a beta by Apple’s own admission — is quantifiably dumber, less intelligent and less useful than it was just five months ago when it first launched.

Don’t believe me? Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak himself has noticed how bad Siri has gotten:

I used to ask Siri, ‘What are the five biggest lakes in California?’ and it would come back with the answer. Now it just misses. It gives me real estate listings. I used to ask, ‘What are the prime numbers greater than 87?’ and it would answer. Now instead of getting prime numbers, I get listings for prime rib, or prime real estate. I’ll be saying, over and over again in my car, ‘Call the Lark Creek Steak House,’ and I can’t get it done.

It’s true. There were all sorts of questions I could ask Siri when it first launched. For example, I used to be able to ask Siri what the average height of an American male was, and get a correct answer. Now, it tells me the highest mountain, and the male population. I’m no expert, but if Siri could intelligently and correctly answer a question five months ago, and now it can’t, Siri’s gone from beta status to alpha.

The fact that Siri is so much dumber now than it was at launch points to Apple having problems ramping it up to the extreme demand of the iPhone 4S. I don’t know for certain, but my guess is that so many people are hammering on Siri right now that Apple has to devote far less time and processing power to calculating Siri’s answers, returning measurably less intelligent answers than just a few months ago. It’s like notching down the playing power of a chess computer: Siri is spending less time each turn “thinking” about its next “move.”

If Siri’s this dumb just trying to keep up with the iPhone 4S demand, imagine what would happen to the service with the crushing weight of 60 million new iPads heaped down on top of it to boot. It would be crushed like a sparrow suddenly teleported to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Siri may very well come to the iPad someday, but it’s not ready for it today. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your poor man’s Siri, Siri Dictation*. It’s all your iPad is going to have for a long time.

* – Of course, Siri Dictation also requires an Internet connection to work. The difference is, if the Internet isn’t available, you can just manually type in your text, no problem. None of Siri’s functionality works at all without an Internet connection: there’s no back-up.

Related
  • BrainGameMayhem

    Not sure if it’s my imagination, but Siri seems MUCH quicker to respond after the iOS 5.1 update.

  • Eric

    I would have to go with the second reason.  SIRI is “dumber”, not to mention slower to respond.

  • joewaylo

    BS. They should make Siri available no matter what and bake in a fallback. If Siri is unavailable, it will queue from iPod Voice Control. It’s that simple.

  • Dwayne Daughtry

    Apple could have easily resolved this problem. Siri could be implemented on newer iPads. First, the user could have the option of turning on or off Siri. A disclaimer or small icon could be present to alert a user if Siri is activated – thus reducing costs for those on plans – or allowing those with WiFi to access responsibly. 

    It is true that Apple dropped the ball at the iPad release. There was much hype about the iPad only to have it fizzle away quickly. The cam and screen are improvements. But these features were coming and people knew it beforehand. Apple fans, like myself, want the bar raised with major releases and with such worldwide media hype. Apple may have injured itself by not including Siri. Time will tell. 

  • David Latheron

    Strange… with the exception of the “What are the prime numbers greater than 87?” question which Siri seemed to not understand at all, it managed a variation on it and the other questions.

    i.e. What is the highest mountain in the world? What is the height of the average US male? What is the largest prime number less than 100? What is the square root of 25? What is the 35 divided by 7?

    Then again maybe because I’m in the UK and it can’t tell me about businesses then maybe it has less options… Finally, a positive for being a 2nd class Apple citizen :-)

  • gettysburg11s

    People act like if Siri is not up to snuff right now, it never will be.  Improving this service is a process, and it will take Apple a while.  People need to be patient.  If you bought an iPhone 4S just for Siri, you are the dumb one, not Siri.  I would bet a lot that Apple is shooting for the iPhone 5 launch for Siri to be ready for primetime.  Remember, up until now its been just one long beta test, and all iPhone 4S users are the testers.  Apparently there are many many people who don’t understand the concept of a beta.

  • Harold Kelly

    I heard you guys talking about this on the PodCast this morning.  I hadn’t thought of this before either but it makes perfect sense.

  • baby_Twitty

    Although i only own the iPhone 4.
    But i don’t agree that people who bought the 4S for Siri are ‘dumb’.
    Coz you are contradicting yourself here when you rightly said the Siri service is constantly improving.

     Siri will only get better on the 4S (and on future iPhones) with continual free iOS firmware upgrades.
    I firmly believe that Apple will take good care of 4S users even after the Beta phase.
    4S users just need to be a little patient, and let technology catch up the vision.
    But the future is bright.

  • minimalist1969

    “Apple could, of course, explain to everyone that Siri will only work
    with an Internet connection, but Cupertino tends to not like these types
    of solutions: they either want something to work for everyone, or no
    one.”

    You mean like they do with Facetime only working on wi-fi and not cellular?  What about mail, Messages and Safari?   All three apps require an internet connection yet Apple obviously doesn’t leave them off.  I think you are seriously over-thinking this.  It only takes one notification to remind people they need connectivity.   I doubt they would make the same mistake twice. 

    Its really just that Siri still isn’t ready for prime time. If it worked properly they would have put it on the new iPad, even the wi-fi only models.  

  • Spike Magazine

    Those new audible ads you have on this site are really intrusive. Wonder how many readers it’s costing you?

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  • DrM47145

    I don’t think it has anything to do with internet connectivity. Following that line of thought, Apple shouldn’t have included Safari either, or Mail, or almost anything for that matter, because at some point, almost everything requires internet.

    I think it was not included just because Siri is still Beta. 

    Including Siri in the iPhone 4S was both a marketing decision, as well as a technical strategy driven by a real need.
    - MARKETING: The marketing decision was clear. iP4S and iP4 looked exactly the same, and though under the hood the iP4S has some clear advantages over its predecessor, those are not really discoverable nor important for mass consumers. Siri is what clearly distinguishes one from the other, and clearly, it’s paying off well. 
    - TECHNICAL: You need real life scenarios to polish the service to the point where it can go gold. Forcing a beta feature into millions of iPhone 4S users catalyzes the whole process. This could speed up the refining process from years of internal testing by a handful of selected employees (with the risk of leaking, which we all know much Apple dislikes) to a few months of aggressive real life usage after letting it go wild. 

    They knew they had something good they could show to the world, and so they did it. But clearly, it’s still beta. 

  • AriRomano

    Ehrm… Apple also can’t be sure that people have an internet connection when they buy an iPhone 4S. There are quite some users that don’t have unlimited data plans or any data plans at all. You might also just be in some place without cellular service…

    in my opinion they should do as much as possible on the phone itself.

  • Obsidian71

    Interesting Brian…I’ve heard others say that Siri feels faster after 5.1.   I don’t have an 4S yet but it is encouraging to hear of your experience. 

  • Obsidian71

    Geeze Dwayne..I heard the same thing about the 4S and it broke all previous iPhone records.   What you’re attempting to do is tell us all that you know what millions of other people care about and desire in a tablet.   Sorry man that stretches credulity a bit too much. 

    Siri is not the same game changer that it is on the phone.   This articles premise is correct.   An iPhone is ALWAYS connected and is highly mobile.  The iPad is mobile but many users still use it primarily at home and the size of the display makes entering data a bit easier as well. 

  • Obsidian71

    All this information must be input on the back end.  Wolfram Alpha can do some nice mathematics but in the end much work needs to be done to keep the chain going from natural language input to latent semantic mapping and then back end API.  Apple was smart to call Siri a Beta because that’s what it is.   Big improvements are expected. 

  • Lochias

    <it’s a=”" able=”" american=”" an=”" and=”" answer.=”" ask=”" average=”" be=”" correct=”" could=”" example,=”" first=”" for=”" get=”" height=”" highest=”" i=”" it=”" launched.=”" male=”" me=”" mountain…=”" now,=”" of=”" questions i=”" siri=”" sorts=”" tells=”" the=”" there=”" to=”" true.=”" used=”" was,=”" were all=”" what=”" when=”">I don’t have any to those problems, except for “prime numbers greater than 87,” which kept it going for a couple of days (and as many prime numbers as Santa had stops on Christmas Eve) until the battery ran down. </it’s>

  • Paullloydjohnson

    I don’t think it is either of those reasons to be honest. I think that Apple doesn’t believe that Siri is needed on an iPad. Think about it, the iPad doesn’t have built in weather or alarms. An iPad isn’t an assistant like your iPhone is. I think that we won’t see Siri on iPad, it will remain on iPhone only and I’m fine with that. Why do I need 2 assistants?

  • gannonburgett

    Full of win.

  • Ronald Ridderhof

    But that’s the problem i think. Apple doesn’t see the iPad as a portable machine like the 4S. More like a MacBook Air with 3G/4G. The data plan’s of the cellular networks are not that big, not here in netherlands that is. And on a iPad you use your data to use your email or to take a quick look on the internet. But than again, we have iCloud wich we can use on our iPad’s. There must be a reason. With the 4S you have always a data connection and the iPad not.

  • mploetner

    so why not put Siri on the 4G version of the iPad and just leave the WiFi-only version out of the fun?

  • Sebastian Aliaga

    what about dictation on ipad 2?? why it is not in ios5.1?

  • John

    Some of these changes may be by design. Maybe the default answers have been made more generic. If you precede many requests with “ask Wolfram” then you get the desired answer.

  • FalKirk

    You say Siri is “quantifiably” dumber? I don’t think the word “quantify” means what you think it means:

    “express or measure the quantity of ”

    Where is your measurement? You have none.

    I think what you meant to say and what you should have said is that Siri is “anecdotally” dumber:

    “(of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research”.

    You may think I’m nitpicking but I sure don’t. It’s a crucial distinction. One is evidential. The other is just storytelling.

  • Sean Shamus McCabe

    I totally disagree with the statement that Siri rarely goes down or in extreme rare situations goes down.  I have Siri and it is constantly not working, to the point where I almost never use it anymore except for texting if i’m in the car.

  • Pete

    If you want Siri on the new iPad please sign my petition! Also please post the link on your twitter and Facebook. Let apple know!!! Shooting for 25K signatures. 
    http://www.change.org/petition

  • Brett

    I’m pretty sure that any carrier-subsidised iPhone includes a data plan.  While it is true that you may find your iPhone out of connection range on occasion, it is not the normal situation. iPads are a different story. Finally, an iPhone can be used single-handedly while walking or carrying something in your other hand.  In this scenario, voice control makes sense as a convenience. But an iPad generally requires two handed, or seated use.  In these cases, it is just as easy to use your fingers to perform an action. Voice control is less necessary.

  • baby_Twitty

    COOL!

  • pcmedman

    They could have still integrated Siri to work within the iOS without using the internet. It would be practical to set up reminders and appointments via Siri – sort of an extended use of Siri Dictation. Or can Dictation do that already?

  • infozonex

    what the hell is this i want siri :(

  • Brandon Dillon

    You remind me of the “is it chicken or tuna” moment with Jessica Simpson.

  • slmn07

    I think apple has more than enough cash to increase siri’s service capacity 100 times more. There must be another reason behind it. I think it is a big AI problem at siri’s core that apple seems hard to achieve it. Maybe Apple poach some google engineers to achieve that :).

  • Atikur Bangali Rahman

    Actually, I know of several peaple who don’t have a 3G connection on their iphones, myself included..
    But i do agree that Siri on the iPad doesn’t make much sense..because of your reasoning..

  • t__e

    You missed the primary reason why: The iPad can’t hear the user well enough because it isn’t a phone.  It is not usually held close to the user’s mouth, and it doesn’t have a second microphone for noise cancellation (which would only work if the normal speaking position of the device would guarantee that the primary mic is much closer to the the user’s lips than the secondary one).

    Without the ability to filter background noise away, the initial processing stages of speech recognition become unreliable. No amount of server-side AI wizardry can salvage this – garbage in, garbage out.

  • PetOwner60

    Then will you accept “demonstrably dumber”?

  • FalKirk

    “Demonstrably” means that it can be demonstrated.  Can one demonstrate that Siri worked better before and is not working as well now?

    Terms like “quantifiably” and “demonstrably” suggest the existence of hard evidence and should not be used unless there actually is hard evidence.

  • TILT_Dat

    I’m pretty sure that Wuote by Steve Wosniak counts as proof

  • FalKirk

    It’s ANECDOTAL evidence. One’s man’s opinion. The weakest kind of proof. It is not in any way “quantifiable” evidence.

  • Yousif AlNajjar

    How do you know? Do you have one?

  • Yousif AlNajjar

    If you want siri jailbreak how hard is that

  • jakeayoo_313

    Bad reasoning…you think that ONE of the reasons is because the iPad is not mobile as much as the iPhone just because it’s two handed? Bahhh, I’ll give you TWO reasons why I think it’s a good idea…1) The iPad is two handed, therefore having Siri as an option is a good idea, unlike the iPhone, you can’t do things simultaneously…all hands on the iPad, period. 2) In response to “iPad requires two hands or seated use”, well what about the iPod Touch? Isn’t it one-handed and mobile? Has pretty much similar features as the iPhone and the iPad…!!!

    In the end, I’m not saying that Siri IS needed on the iPad, all I’m saying is that you’re reasoning wasn’t reasonable nor had it persuaded me…Also, I don’t understand why people are fussing about Siri not included…Geez…YouTube is driving you nuts? Control yourselves…it’s just a freaking app that writes/provides info on what you ask it to do….LAZY MUCH???? WOW YOU PEEPS…ASK APPLE TO MAKE AN APP THAT DRIVES YOUR CAR TO YOUR WORK WHILE YOU’RE SLEEPING…give me a break!

  • jakeayoo_313

    Also, SAME crap goes to what Whatsapp responded to their raging customers…stopping their services to the Apple iPod Touch and iPads just because they aren’t connected to the internet 24/7…like come on…can’t I chill using Whatsapp on my iPad…do I have to have my iPhone with me all day long………*sigh* What kind of reasoning is this…in the sake of sanity….!

    BTW, I don’t have an internet connection on my iPhone, I find it unnecessary, there’s Wifi at my job and at my home…do I need the internet just for the 15 minutes from the point I leave my workplace to my house? Seriously? …yeah iPod Touch and iPad aren’t connected 24/7…

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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