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ASA Sides With Vodafone And Apple Over Siri’s Lack Of UK Help

Thousands of UK iPhone 4S buyers in the UK may have signed up to a new contract on the promise that Siri, the electronic personal assistant, would help them find places and businesses in the UK, but the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) disagrees.

An unhappy iPhone 4S user contacted the advertising watchdog to complain that the Siri app was not as functional in the UK as it is in America and that Vodafone’s online advertising was misleading. The complainant claimed that the advertisement did not make it clear enough that location-based Siri functionality only worked in the United States.

Weather is fine

In a ruling, the ASA stated: “We considered that some consumers may have had prior knowledge of what Siri was reportedly able to do in the US and, with this knowledge, might read into the ad that Siri users in the UK would benefit from similar maps-based functionality. However, we did not consider that these consumers represented the average consumer in the UK and, because the ad in itself had not explicitly or implicitly made such claims, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.”

Any claim to local information being available was considered to be covered by a footnote disclaimer which reads: “Siri may not be available in all languages or in all areas, and features may vary by area.”

The ASA also noted that “Siri used location information to answer queries about the weather. We therefore considered that the claims made in the ad were accurate.”

Many of the Siri functions do work and it is just the lack of location-based functionality that has been called into question. Although the Apple website puts Siri as the topmost feature in iPhone’s armoury, it does mark it as a beta but the regional restrictions are tucked away at the bottom of the Web page. In the advertising text expounding the virtues of Siri, the disclaimer is flagged by a feint number one which is not hyperlinked to the disclaimer footnote.

On the Apple Support Communities forum, disgruntled user G from Stourbridge wrote: “It seems to me like I’ve got an iPhone 4 and not an iPhone 4S, due to the limited capabilities of Siri, so now I wonder what exactly I am paying for? I could have had the iPhone 4 for half the money on contract, so now I pay double and the phone is no better, I very much call it misleading sales on Apple’s part and they should step up pretty sharpish to put the problem right.”

Apple has said that location-based features will be rolled out during 2012 in some regions:

“Siri can also assist you using these apps and services in the US in English:

  • Maps
  • Local search with Yelp!

Maps and local search support will be available in additional countries in 2012.”

The company has not given a detailed timetable, or a priority roadmap to indicate which countries are under consideration.

There is still no word on what the company is doing about dialectic problems with the voice recognition. Scots, Northerners, and foreign English-speaking “natives” continue to complain about Siri’s lack of understanding. The Apple website specifies: “Siri is designed to recognise the specific accents and dialects of the supported countries listed above [US, UK, Australia, France, Germany]. Since every language has its own accents and dialects, the accuracy rate will be higher for native speakers.”

The assumption in the UK is that the only “native speakers” live in the South East.

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Eric Doyle, ChannelBiz

Eric is a veteran British tech journalist, currently editing ChannelBiz for NetMediaEurope. With expertise in security, the channel, and Britain's startup culture, through his TechBritannia initiative

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  • The ASA also noted that “Siri used location information to answer queries about the weather. We therefore considered that the claims made in the ad were accurate.”

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