My AT&T phone plan had an upgrade that I was waiting to cash in for some time. Finally, two weeks ago, I made the trek to the AT&T store in the mall and upgraded my iPhone from the 4 to the 4S. I decided to upgrade for two reasons:
1) My home button kept sticking on the 4. This is a problem that several people complain of that have the iPhone 4. Just do a Google search of “iPhone home button sticking” and you’ll come back with several hundred forums and help sites that are dedicated to helping others fix this problem.
2) My phone was out of space. I had the 16 gig model of the 4, and I maxed out my storage space. I had a ton of pictures, apps, and songs on there, but I couldn’t bare to part with any of them. For this reason, I was missing out on several important app updates and even an iOS update or two. I had no room left on the phone to download any of the updates.
2 1/2) I thought Siri would be cool to have.
As you know, the iPhone 4S has a feature called “Siri”. Siri is a voice responsive personal assistant of sorts. There are several commands that you can tell it, simply by pressing and holding the home button on your phone. I’m sure you have also seen the commercials with Zooey Deschanel and others that demonstrate ways that you can use Siri in real life situations. While I wouldn’t necessarily call those commercials false advertising, I wouldn’t call them exactly truthful either. Siri is not as intuitive as Apple would have you believe.
Yesterday on WNEP, Bob Reynolds reported on a story about Apple iPhone’s Siri feature not being helpful in an emergency situation, by not being able to dial 911. The video of it is embedded below.
My first thought after seeing this video on the news was that it was not dialing out because 911 is not in the address book of the iPhone. So I made a test contact on my phone for “911” and attempted to have Siri call it. I tested that and found the same result (below).
Siri flat out refuses to dial 911 (and also 611 and 411, basically any three digit number ending in 11), which I found to be unusual, and caused me to hit Google up once again to research why it behaves like this.
First and foremost, you should know that Siri is in “beta” as per the Apple webpage. That means it is still a work in progress and Apple cannot make any guarantees on how the product can function until it is released from beta status. As their website states “we’ll continue to improve it over time”. During Apple’s last keynote, they revealed that iOS 6 will have enhanced Siri features. As reported by Ars Technica (and photos taken by my elementary school pen pal Jacqui Cheng):
Third-party apps can now be launched with a command to Siri—for example, “Play Temple Run” opens the app. Users can also now tweet from Siri, a formerly noticeable hole in the Twitter integration throughout the rest of iOS. In addition to hands-free mode, Siri now has “eyes-free” mode, where the app doesn’t light the screen, but still reads responses out. Apple is working with BMW, GM, Jaguar, Mercedes, and Honda to bring a “Siri button” to their cars that will work with iPhones within the next 12 months.
IOS 6 is expected to be released sometime in the fall of 2012. There is unfortunately no mention about 911 services in this article, so we won’t know for sure if that will be worked out in the new version until it is released.
That’s all well and good, but why the heck can’t Siri dial 911? Back to Google I went….
I found these two Apple Support forums:
From the second discussion URL:
By design. Siri cannot make emergency calls as Apple has not instituted a method to authenticate the call and ensure it is not a prank, as millions have attempted to do since Siri launched. You’ll have to wait until “next generation” 911 is fully launched.
That is your answer right there, if you want to call it an answer. Apple is afraid of people accidentally calling 911 or using Siri as a prankster. How does a normal POTS line “authenticate a call and ensure it’s not a prank”? Oh right…it doesn’t….it just dials the number, prank or not. Apple should really come up with a better excuse than that.
Researching all of this reminded me of a video that fellow NEPA Blogger, Summer Beretsky, created several months ago after her fiance got the new iPhone 4S. Summer blogs about Panic and Anxiety disorders, and she wanted to demonstrate how Siri would behave if she threatened to harm herself. In this video our Hollywood starlet, Siri, is being her usual unhelpful self:
In closure, I wouldn’t count on Siri to be helpful in any type of emergency situation at least for the unforseen future. IOS 6 may address the 911 dialing issue, but it may not. If you are able to remain calm enough in an emergency to be able to operate a cell phone or normal telephone, I would suggest using the old fashioned method. Dial 911 instead of relying on Siri to do it for you. Relying on a computerized robot app that isn’t intuitive may take too long when a human life is at risk.