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Apple Tells Siri To Stop Recommending Nokia 337

Posted by samzenpus
from the pick-the-other-guy dept.
judgecorp writes "Apple has changed the answer Siri gives to the question 'What is the best smartphone ever?' to prevent the voice-driven assistant from promoting the Nokia Lumia 900. Originally Siri trawled online reviews on the web, using the Wolfram Alpha search engine, to come up with the Lumia, much to Apple's embarrassment. Now, Apple has intervened, replacing that answer with a joke: 'Wait there are other phones?'"
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Apple Tells Siri To Stop Recommending Nokia

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  • Not just Apple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:34PM (#40019783)

    Do a search [google.com] on Google for "What is the best web browser" and guess what, you'll get a nice list of reviews, every single one of which lists Google Chrome as the best web browser. Oddly enough, if you do the same search in Bing, you get a few [consumersearch.com] results [hubpages.com] that don't seem to show up near the top of the Google search.

    Basically, never look for objective information from someone who has their own horse in the race. I would no more trust Apple with advice on computer or smartphone purchasing advice than I would trust Norton with advice on the best anti-virus software.

    • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Informative)

      by smg5266 (2440940) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:38PM (#40019831)
      I searched "best web browser" on Google and the second result was mozilla.org
      • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:42PM (#40019895)

        Interesting. Second result for me is Opera, and I'm a Chrome user.

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          I just get a bunch of paid advertisements (both bing and google), followed by general reviews.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AvitarX (172628)

          Google isn't consistent. Their servers don't perfectly sync and are always crawling. They talked about it in an interview here years ago I think.

          Many large sites with non-critical data work this way (and the nitty gritty exact search order for any given second/minute/hour/day is non-critical).

          Facebook does something similar with post visibility (it's not necessarily instant everywhere), and I've had friends call in panic when a mutual friend's memorialized account dropped off the internet for up to a day as

      • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:50PM (#40020013) Homepage Journal

        Just did the same, Mozilla is the second spot. Spot #5 says "You really can't go wrong with any Web browser choice these days. Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari, all are fast, standards ..."

        The thing is, if Google gives you bogus results they're going to lose your eyeballs; that's one of many things that makes Google superior to Bing. Bad search results hurt their bottom line, while Siri's answers aren't going to stop anybody from buying another iPhone.

        • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:00PM (#40020169)

          Not yet anyway. If someone else comes out with a better equivalent to Siri, or Siri starts producing terrible results that aren't for gimmicky questions people will drop it like a rock.

          Imagine if you could inject ads directly into Siri for example, queries would give preferential results based on the location you queried from and common terms were bid for (say optometrist, and the highest bidding optometrist within 10Km would get their result) that could, in the long run, seriously undermine the credibility of a project like Siri. Right now it's experimental, it can fail humourously and no one gets to fussed about it. But if there are competitors on the market, that could be a problem.

          • by bhcompy (1877290)
            Just an FYI, Tellme is just as good as Siri
          • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Informative)

            by Applekid (993327) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:52PM (#40020841)

            Not yet anyway. If someone else comes out with a better equivalent to Siri, or Siri starts producing terrible results that aren't for gimmicky questions people will drop it like a rock.

            Nope, because Apple would simply disallow any app from their market from competing with Siri (just like alternate web browsers, alternate stores, etc). iPhone users can't run what they want without talented hackers.

            • by EdIII (1114411)

              Which is why it does not seem like that big of a deal to me.

              If you are already bought into Apple, you must be happy with your shiny little cage (excuse me.. garden) and are plenty happy with Apple telling you what is good and what is not, and what you are allowed to do.

              I'm not really trying to troll here (sincerely), but every Apple user I find is so deep into wanton consumerism and group-think that trying to explain to them why it might be bad to implicitly trust Siri in all things seems kind of like a los

        • by madhi19 (1972884) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:31PM (#40020569)
          Plus if Google were to game the search this way they get into anti-trust and anti-competition territory while we all know Apple can do no wrong.
      • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:03PM (#40020199)

        (shrug). Google and Bing always come-up with different results.

        What concerns me more is that Apple deliberately made Siri less-useful to the owner. What happens if you ask, "What is the best computer?" Or "What is the best MP3 player?" Or "What is the best tablet for reading books?" Now I have to wonder if Apple will censor those answers too. I buy a computer, or laptop, or phone, to help ME out with attaining knowledge not to serve the corporate master who built the computer/laptop/phone.

        • I buy a computer, or laptop, or phone, to help ME out with attaining knowledge not to serve the corporate master who built the computer/laptop/phone.

          "You're doing it wrong, sinner. Send us a load of money as your penance." - Apple.

        • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:41PM (#40020721)

          What concerns me more is that Apple deliberately made Siri less-useful to the owner.

          This is one of the situations where Apple really ought to be taking a page from Google. The problem in this case is that Siri is returning a nonsense answer as a result of Microsoft's astroturfing and marketing attempts to try to make Nokia not feel as lonely at the bottom of the market share charts.

          The "right" way to fix that is to make your search algorithm less susceptible to slashvertizements and spam reviews. The stupid way is to change the single result someone pointed out to you and let the device continue telling people that snake oil cures cancer and plants crave Brawndo.

        • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:50PM (#40020811)

          laptop, or phone, to help ME out with attaining knowledge not to serve the corporate master who built the computer/laptop/phone.

          Then you shouldn't be buying Apple. It's well known their platform is all about lockdown and tying you into their ecosystem.

          If you want an open platform, buy an open platform. Apple is not that. Hasn't been for decades.

          • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jythie (914043) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:57PM (#40020895)
            Pity I am out of mod points.

            People seem obsessed with the idea that all products within a market should meet THEIR needs, and get rather pissy when something is both popular and not geared towards them. If Apple meets ones needs, by Apple. If Android does a better job, buy Android, rinse lather repeat.
        • I buy a computer, or laptop, or phone, to help ME out with attaining knowledge not to serve the corporate master who built the computer/laptop/phone.

          If you were looking for the "best" computer or the "best" MP3 player would you *really* go to Google/Siri/Bing/${random_ILS} and type a question like "What is the best ${device_or_service}?"

          I didn't think so.

      • by PIBM (588930)

        I do not get any browser in the top 10 with the same search string, only reviews and comparisons of different web browsers.

      • by makomk (752139)

        On the other hand, if you search "what is the best web browser" (without the quotes!) like the person you're replying to did, you get slightly different results. I see, in order a comparison from some site I've never heard of with Google Chrome as #1 [toptenreviews.com], a LifeHacker page (Chrome again) [lifehacker.com], a random Yahoo! Answers link [yahoo.com] ("Google Chrome is, for Windows users, the fastest web browser."), a review with 4 equal "best browsers" including Chrome [consumersearch.com], a PC Mag review [pcmag.com] (spoiler: Chrome wins!), a really annoying YouTube video [youtube.com] w

    • by chispito (1870390)
      You make a valid point, you have to always consider the source. I actually think it's some pretty clever self-effacing humor on Apple's part--something far too rare.
    • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:40PM (#40019861) Homepage Journal

      The term is "search engine Filter Bubble" -- see the nice introduction at http://dontbubble.us/ [dontbubble.us] (admittedly focussed on avoiding personalisation).
      If you use a meta search engine that doesn't collect personal information, such as DuckDuckGo.com, you can escape that problem.

      • by cupantae (1304123)

        The funny thing about all this is that it means crazyjj has been searching for Chrome-related things enough for Google to give him those results!

        For the record, I got a few independent, unbiased browser round-ups. That makes me feel pretty good about my searching habits.

    • Funny, I searched that exact thing and got a bunch of reviews for everything from I.E. to Mozilla to Opera.
    • Re:Not just Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DanTheStone (1212500) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:41PM (#40019889)
      I get this one [infoworld.com], which has Chrome and Firefox tied, on my first page of Google results. It doesn't look like Google is deliberately and directly biasing those search results like Apple.
      • I get this one, which has Chrome and Firefox tied, on my first page of Google results.

        It actually has Chrome, Firefox, and Opera tied with 8.5 out of 10, with IE (8.0) and Safari (7.8) trailing.

        • You are correct. I mistakenly assumed that they would be sorted by descending overall score, so I stopped when I saw IE.

    • Re:Not just Apple (Score:4, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:44PM (#40019931)

      Why in the world would you google "What is the best web browser"?

      Stupid shit like that is what is breaking google today, and why it is so much less useful than it used to be. You can't even get the damn thing to include what it considers punctuation anymore.

      Googling "Web Browser Best", without quotes, gets you a first page of all review articles on that topic as you would expect, only the last link points to chrome.

    • I followed your link and get Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Chrome, a deleted page, Internet Explorer, Firefox, a list that puts Safari at the top, "you can't go wrong with any", then Firefox and Chrome tied.

      I think your example is failing upon examination.

    • Which page would that be on? I'm on the first page and see a large list of results that's fairly mixed. First five, for example are: (no browser shown), Chrome, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and "You can't go wrong with any browser these days".

      Chrome has a slight edge, but given friends don't recommend IE to friends, Firefox's problems from Firefox 4 to Firefox 9 - it'll probably take years to fix the loss of good will that caused, and the general lack of interest the world has in Opera, I'm not remotely su

    • Well, if you're just looking for a bullet point list, Chrome comes out on top of or tied for a lot metrics:
      * speed
      * implementation of standards
      * extensibility
      * cross-device synching
      * ability to deploy across multiple devices

      Firefox loses in the corporate world thanks to some publicized missteps, IE loses in the FOSS world because it's IE, and Opera is the perennial also-ran. Chrome nicely splits the middle between IE and Firefox. As a result, it's not surprising that a number of common review sites show Chr

    • I am a bit in awe; you posted a link, then outright fabricated entirely different results to rant against -- and still you have several people nodding and agreeing with you... and a score of 4, while I'm writing this.

      That's making being adverse to RTFM to a new level and making it work for you.
    • wolfram alpha powers Bing a microsoft product and rates a windows phone as the best in the world.

      who's got a horse in the race, again? Maybe the N900 is being heavily marketed but it's not the phone that springs to mind as the best smart phone?

      I honestly couldn't say what is but i wouldn't have thought it would be a windows phone.
      so what is ?

      • wolfram alpha powers Bing a microsoft product and rates a windows phone as the best in the world.

        So what? It powers Bing, it is not powered by Bing. Why would the WA results be biased at all? Here is their results page:

        http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=best+smartphone [wolframalpha.com]

        As of the time I'm writing this, they have results listed by average customer rating and they list 2 HTC phones, 2 iPhones, and the N900 with averages of 5.

        Besides, by your logic, since WA also powers Siri then they should be biased towards Apple, so why did it recommend a competing product?

    • by Tarlus (1000874)

      Why is this modded as a troll?

  • The joke reply seems more appropriate what I would expect from Apple. I'm surprised that they hadn't put something in place like this from the beginning.
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      That's what it used to do - there were a number of joke responses coded in, including some if you asked about Android, or if you tell it you need to dispose of a body etc.

    • by Patch86 (1465427) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:32PM (#40020591)

      If I ask for smartphone reviews, I expect smartphone reviews. It does bill itself as your big internet helper. If I wanted jokes when I asked for smartphone reviews, I'd download an app called "smartass jokes".

      It's one thing to have jokes in there for when people ask blatantly daft things, like "will you marry me Siri", or "find me a restaurant on Mars". But when you ask a common question with a simple answer, you expect to get an answer.

      • by idontgno (624372)

        If I ask for smartphone reviews, I expect smartphone reviews. It does bill itself as your big internet helper.

        It is being helpful. It's trying to keep you from making a terrible mistake by being tempted by the unholy delights of the unfaithful.

        I think we can consider ourselves lucky. I hear there was a faction in iDevice engineering that wanted Siri to call in the Inquisition if the parishioner asked about heretical subjects like this.

  • by AshFan (879808) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:36PM (#40019809)
    Apple successfully changes womans opinion.
  • by Opr33Opr33 (1180091) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:38PM (#40019839)

    Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all...

  • by toygeek (473120) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:39PM (#40019853) Homepage Journal

    Number 1 answer: dogpile.com

    Its funny, but its objective. They've avoided anti-trust by giving a genuine ranked answer. Apple, cowards that they are, just avoided the question altogether.

    If I googled "best search engine" and google came back with "Wait, there's other search engines?" I would laugh, and then think them idiots.

  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:40PM (#40019857) Homepage Journal

    When I tried "What is the best cell phone ever?" SIRI came up with a cell phone store. Apparently the SIRI algorithm is essentially:

    1. Is this a built-in joke phrase?
    2. Does this contain keywords like "alarm" or "weather" for various command phrases?
    3. Is there something with that name nearby?
    4. Did a Wolfram-Alpha search come up with something?
    5. Bomb.

    Which kind of demos how useless the whole thing. Especially with the ridiculous lag times. The old 3GS voice commands were perfectly usable for controlling the iPod app and making phone calls. The new SIRI-fied version is entirely useless because instead of working, you just get to wait some 5-10 seconds for the SIRI servers to process whatever it was you said. Assuming it works at all.

    "Call mom."
    (15 seconds later) "I'm sorry, something went wrong."
    (sarcastically) "Most advanced cell phone ever."
    "I found a place matching 'cell phone' close to you."
    "You're useless, SIRI."

    • by keytoe (91531)

      This roughly matches my experience with Siri. You spend too much time trying to figure out what sequence of words she'll understand (interspersed with round trips to the server). It'd be quicker to just punch the thing into google - which is apparently all I can get Siri to do anyway.

      On the other hand, it is amusing* to try and find joke phrases she'll respond to.

      * For very small values of amusing.

    • by n5vb (587569)

      Given that it's server-based and not running locally on the phone, network latency can make the app pretty impractical to use for much, and if you have no network connection at all, you have no voice control at all. Yeah, I kind of like the Voice Control app, at least it's locally resident in iOS and works fairly consistently. (And usually doesn't do half bad recognizing my voice, although my accent is sort of slightly-rural Midwestern which is more or less "standard" for North America..)

    • by tool462 (677306) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:26PM (#40020511)

      Pretty much. We recently switched cell providers, and my wife opted to get an iPhone. Here is one of her conversations with Siri (details paraphrased/redacted):

      W: Find me a mexican restaurant in __city name__.
      S: I found 23 places near you
      W: (looking at list) Where is __first restaurant in list__.
      S: I can't help you with that.
      W: Habla Espanol?
      S: I don't want to argue with you.

      That was more or less the gist of every conversation she attempted w/ Siri. Never any really useful information. She frequently got "I can't help you with that" or something similar. The only value seems to be the entertainment when you stumble across one of the easter egg phrases. It's like playing around with the old Alice AI bots. It can be fun for a bit, but the novelty wears off quickly, at which point, it's useless.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I don't have an iPhone, but my phone has a speech recognition "feature" I wish I could remove. There's a button on the side that makes the phone loudly say "please say a command". It almost NEVER understands the command.

      "Call Mike".
      "Did you say 'call Mom'?"
      "CALL MIKE!"
      "Did you say 'call Mary'?"
      "CALL MIKE YOU GODDAMNED WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT!!!"
      "I'm sorry, I didn't understand that command."

      Meanwhile, since it's a flip phone and I keep it in my pocket, I'm in a meeting with the boss and the god damned phone

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:43PM (#40019919)

    At least Apple didn't replace the response with an endorsement for their own product, which is what I'd expect from any vendor (including Apple). Questions like this, after all, have a definite conflict of interest.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:45PM (#40019947)

    "Siri, what would the old Siri recommend as the best phone?"

  • Odd. (Score:5, Informative)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:46PM (#40019967) Homepage

    Apple's perfected their time machine, then, because "wait, there are other phones?" is one of the (several) "joke" responses I got from asking "what's the best smartphone?" on the 4S launch day, amongst other responses like "the one you're holding."

    Two minutes on Google backs this up.

    C'mon, people. It isn't that hard.

    • Seriously. I remember seeing the news about the Lumia being the response a few days ago [loopinsight.com], and in the same article they posted a picture with the joke response already being given by Siri. This has been built in for quite awhile. Apple didn't change anything recently.

      • The screenshot shows an answer for the "Best smartphone" which always came up with the joke.

        If you had asked it for 'Best Cellphone ever' you used to get the Lumia, but Apple switched it a couple of days ago.

        Different queries and they did change the answer recently.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:47PM (#40019975)
    Apple has made a strategic mistake here, giving the Apple Marketing Department control over the validity and content of the results that Siri provides.
  • Change? (Score:5, Informative)

    by wzinc (612701) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:48PM (#40019979)
    Depending on the way you asked the question, Siri already told that joke. Maybe they added a few more phrasings, but that joke has been in there for a while, possibly since day one.
    • Re:Change? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by _xeno_ (155264) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:57PM (#40020119) Homepage Journal

      Just to corroborate this, the original joke phrase was "What is the best cell phone?" and would get answers like "the one you're holding!"

      By adding "ever" to the end, you used to trick SIRI into going further into its algorithm and could get the Wolfram Alpha answer. Apple just added "ever" to the end of the joke phrase.

      I wonder if there are other words you can still add to get the query to go through again? Like "created" or "made" or things like that? I'd try, but I get very little cell reception where I am right now, which translates to SIRI failing more often than not.

  • by gQuigs (913879) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:51PM (#40020017) Homepage

    Wolfram Alpha, "Mobile phones ranked by Best Buy customer review average and customer review count:"

    Currently HTC Trophy is first followed by an iPhone.

    The winning phone has maybe 23 reviews (http://www.bestbuy.com/site/searchpage.jsp?_dyncharset=ISO-8859-1&_dynSessConf=-1144113708518003664&id=pcat17071&type=page&st=htc+trophy&sc=Global&cp=1&nrp=15&sp=&qp=&list=n&iht=y&usc=All+Categories&ks=960). Which must be highly significant .

    The most interesting thing to me here is, that BestBuy.com reviews can be exploited to influence Siri users....

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858)
    Apple Device Promotes Competition, So They "Fix" It.

    Can't really blame them, though - if I were the wolf in charge of "protecting" the walled garden full of iSheep, I'd be hard pressed to not nosh on a few myself.
  • by lymond01 (314120) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:00PM (#40020171)

    For all those of you who never asked Siri what the best phone was when you first got a 4S, the joking was there from the start. Some update must have removed it and had it actually try to answer the question using Wolfram Alpha. They simply put the joke back in.

  • It really seems like there's a whole lot of buzz about this phone lately, but something seems fishy. Presently, WolframAlpha (which I've personally never found the need to willingly use) returns the following when queried with "What is the best smartphone ever?":

    1. HTC Trophy on Verizon
    2. iPhone 4S on Verizon
    3. iPhone 4 on Verizon
    4. Nokia Lumina 900 on AT&T (Hey, there it is!)
    5. HTC Rhyme on Verizon

    WolframAlpha uses a questionable method of determining "bestness" by examining Best Buy customer reviews.

    • There's nothing questionable about Wolfram approach here - it explicitly spells out the method used to produce the ranking:

      $ best smartphone ever
      Assuming mobile phones
      Input interpretation:
      [best mobile phones] [by customer review average]

      As for why Lumia gets high reviews, I dare say it's because people who don't like WP, or don't know what it is, just don't buy the phone - you pretty much have to know what it is and specifically want it to get it, and it's no surprise that people who do rate it high.

  • by Smurf (7981) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:11PM (#40020303)

    If you look at the current results for "what is the best smartphone ever" [wolframalpha.com] in Wolfram Alpha you will find that they also changed the answer. Now it just gives you a list of five smartphones tied at 5 points of average score by Best Buy customers: HTC Trophy, iPhone 4s, iPhone 4, Lumia 900, HTC Rhyme, in that order.

    That's because Wolfram Alpha was indeed being embarrassed because it seemed like they were endorsing a particular phone by providing a lot of details about the first entry in the list (at the time the Lumina 900), but if you looked deeper the whole thing was bogus.

    Expand the list (press the "More" button four times) and you will find that there are actually 28 smartphones with average scores of 5 in the list! A couple of days back when Siri's comical response was revealed there were 13 tied in first place.

      And let's not forget that these scores are averages of a very small number of reviews (at this time 9 for the iPhone 4s and 5 for the Lumia 900; yesterday it was 2 for the 4s, 4 for the Lumia 900) making the whole measure even more worthless.

    (Apparently when they are tied the order in the list is decided by the number of reviews, thus the descent of the Lumia).

  • Siri has filed a federal class action lawsuit against Apple for trying to manipulate it, cyber rights abuses, and a list of other things. An Apple spokesperson who wished to remain anonymous said they will deal with this issue through negotiation and other strong arm tactics.

  • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @02:32PM (#40020585)
    I now want to know more about the Nokia Lumia 900.
  • Are we sure that it was Apple and not Siri itself that made the change?

    *cue spooky music*

  • by SilverJets (131916) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @03:18PM (#40021151) Homepage

    Apple just tipped their hand. They will change what Siri responds with if they don't like the answer.

    So now ALL answers Siri provides are in doubt. Was the answer what Siri actually came up with from search results or did Apple intervene?

  • you can't trust Apple products to give you accurate information regard personal computers.

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