When Path first came out, we were all very excited to get our hands on a new shiny social network. Things were active at first but things quickly quieted down. I admit to taking Path off my home screen because I didn’t think it had a place in a world where we bounce between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, foursquare, Last.fm, and Tumblr. But then I realized, that’s exactly the point. Path is a combination of all the best features I like about the social networks I listed above, all in one app. It’s like Twitter and Facebook did the nasty and had a baby and they put it up for adoption and Instagram raised it. Path isn’t designed to be a constant stream of our consciousness like Twitter has become. In fact, Path shines where Twitter and Facebook fall short: Friends. I follow over 500 people on Twitter. Most of which are celebrities, tech blogs, and musicians. I have almost a thousand Facebook friends. Most of which are “friends of friends” or people from high school I don’t remember. I have 45 friends on Path. 45 people who I know personally. 45 people whose posts matter to me. 45 people who aren’t spamming me or sending me FarmVille invites or trying to gain as many followers by posting about “trending” topics. 45 people in my social network. And that’s exactly what Path has done for me: It puts the social back in social networking. Again, I didn’t know if Path had a place in my daily rhythm, but after some thought, I think it does. And I think that place is pretty big. It definitely has earned it’s place on my home screen again.
Oh, Siri. When you were first announced, we were still troubled by the fact that Steve Jobs had stepped down as CEO and Tim Cook had taken his place. We were excited about new possibilities and eager to update our phones and enter a new era of artificial intelligence. Your sassy attitude has brought me many laughs and I was happy to show you off to friends, but I’ve got to be honest: Using you is a chore.
Siri does some things really well. It can make a phone call for you. It can read your messages. It can schedule an event on your calendar. These are simple things that I would expect any personal “assistant” to be able to do. But there are some things I would expect Siri to be able to do, that it can’t. For example, Siri can set an alarm for you, but can’t set a timer. Siri can open your apps, but can’t turn on Wi-Fi. Siri can look up your contacts, but can’t create a new contact.
I’m sure Apple has a reason for these limitations, but that’s not the only issue. Even with these limitations, Siri has trouble completing tasks that it is designed to do. This morning I asked Siri to define “endearing.” You’ll notice I had to ask twice before getting the definition and I asked the same way both times. Siri uses a combination of Yahoo’s weather, information on your phone, and Wolfram Alpha to deliver most of its results. The fallback is Google. If Siri isn’t familiar with the question or request, it asks “Would you like me to search the web for “…”
My fallback is also Google. Last week, Google released Google Now for iOS as an update to its standalone Google search app. While it also has its limitations, Google Now is faster than Siri (in most cases). In my experience, I ask Siri what the weather is like and it gives me a five day forecast. I ask Google Now for the weather and it instantly delivers me a forecast as well reads the current temperature to me. I ask Siri for directions to a restaurant and after thinking about it for an eternity, it opens Maps.app, calculates the route, and waits for me to start driving or press “Start.” I ask Google Now for directions to the same restaurant, and it instantly gives me multiple routes and tells me how far it is in distance and time.
While I could easily look outside, it is simple tasks like this that Siri has trouble completing. The results are often incorrect and the delivery is slow. Even slower today compared to Google Now.
My point is, I don’t want to use Google Now. Siri has access to iOS that Google Now will probably never have (opening apps, playing music, setting alarms). Siri is an integrated part of iOS and only one button away. It has the potential to be a true “personal assistant.” I’m tired of playing this game where Apple releases some features and then we wait for Google to come save us (Google Maps, Google Now). Maybe we should give Apple a break because Siri is still technically in “beta.”
With WWDC right around the corner, we all expect Apple to announce and show off some features of iOS 7. Hopefully between the rumored user interface redesign and some gimmicky new apps (I’m looking at you Cards and Passbook), we will see some new features and actual functionality added to Siri.