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Siri Usage and Engagement Declining

A somewhat odd Verto Analytics report on virtual assistant use on mobile devices claims that while Siri remains the most popular virtual assistant in the United States, both usage and engagement are dropping. Siri’s user base reportedly declined by 15 percent to 41.4 million over the past year, and engagement (a metric that compares daily users to monthly users) has dropped by half during that period. Suggested reasons include Google rolling out voice support across all its apps and people starting to use mobile apps associated with home-based voice assistant devices, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple undoubtedly hopes that its HomePod smart speaker with Siri support will reverse this trend.favicon follow link


Comments about Siri Usage and Engagement Declining
(Comments are closed.)

JohnB (SciFiOne)   2017-07-11 16:39
And I still don't use Siri at all, or any of the others. I'm behind times. Oh well...
I'd use Siri if there was a text-based silent mode. We'll see what iOS 11 offers on that front.

I'm not convinced at all these virtual assistants are really all that useful. Siri was popular when she was new and heavily advertised. Now Alexa is popular because she's new and Amazon can't advertise her enough. Wouldn't surprise me to see these things gradually become irrelevant once they have become mainstream and the fad wears off. It's one of these nerdy things where it's cool to see it come to life when it's brand new, but eventually people notice there's just no real everyday use case that justifies the extra investment or hassle.
dbrugger  2017-07-11 17:46
No surprises here. I gave up on Siri having a useful answer to anything a long time ago. I don't try any more.
gastropod  2017-07-12 19:01
I think most people expect far too much. Siri is great for many things such as making calls and unit conversions. But no intelligent assistant yet is as generally intelligent as a goldfish. Human language is hard stuff, and even people don't get it right much of the time. Life's more fun when let yourself be happily surprised at how amazingly fast things are improving.
Siri remains incredibly limited for even very basic tasks. Ask her this, and see what happens:

Add 7 plus 7 divided by 2
And if, perchance, you're thinking "Ah, you see, there's a mismatch in the language construct wherein you're requesting Siri Add and then requesting that she divide," there are two salient points: 1) that's how people talk; 2) She can even execute "Add 7 plus 7".
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-13 10:24
I find Siri fascinating, because I've quickly come up with the set of things I'll try, and those work well.

"Changing 'floating' to 7 AM" to adjust my Floating alarm.

"Remind me to plug in the race clock at 10 AM" to set a reminder.

"Text Tristan 'it's time for dinner;" to get my son to come down to dinner.

"Set a timer for 20 minutes" when I'm cooking.

But no, I never do searches or ask more general questions because the results are poor and the user experience of being dumped into Bing in Safari is poor. I far prefer the Google app and its voice search (which is readily accessible via 3D Touch).
After reading Adam's post, I decided to just give Siri another try. This time with more practical things...

So when I ask Siri to check if there are any apps to update, she first misunderstands and goes to Bing (yeah since I'm from Walnut Creek and Siri's from Cupertino which is a stunning 55 miles away my dialect must be really hard for her to understand, especially in my otherwise silent office setting). I correct her and she then tells me, "ok, here's the app store" showing me the home screen of the app store. So 15 sec later and I still don't have a simple answer to a yes/no question. To just tap on the app store app and then on updates takes two sec at best. What progress we've made!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-13 14:49
So here's the problem — you have to want to do something that Siri can accomplish. Guessing won't work in most cases, as you found. Checking for app updates simply isn't something Siri knows how to do.

That's why talking to Siri is frustrating — the conversations have to be tightly tailored to the available vocabulary and actions.

I don't know if this list is really complete, but it will give you an idea.
Thanks for the info, Adam.

But quite honestly, I think this is baloney. How can Siri not know how to deal with such a question? We're talking about Apple's own built-in app and perfectly simple functionality used by every user at some point. They've had how many years now to extend Siri? They've spent time teaching Siri jokes, but they haven't found the time to teach her how to interface with built-in functionality of their own apps? To me that indicates they've either entirely dropped the ball or they have their priorities seriously misaligned.

I wonder if this a New Apple™ problem or if this is more of an industry wide attitude? If on a Google Pixel somebody asks the Google assistant (forget the name, I just know it's not Cortana or Alexa) the same simple question, will they get a straight yes/no answer?
> That's why talking to Siri is frustrating — the conversations
> have to be tightly tailored to the available vocabulary and actions.

Very interesting point you make here, Adam. And I think part of the underlying problem.

What you describe here is probably very close to reality. But that's not what Apple (or any of their competitors for that matter) are advertising. What they're advertising is "artificial intelligence" and "smart assistants".

But nothing about the reality you describe is intelligent or smart. It's straightforward pre-programmed i/o queries. We have to change our behavior so the machine can understand from a pre-programmed list of simple queries. That's the exact opposite of what consumers expect when you toss around big words like "artificial intelligence" that insinuate the code is so advanced the machines understand our natural way of asking about things and hence they adapt to us rather than we having to learn to tailor our questions and commands to them.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-13 16:33
I don't disagree, but I strongly suspect that Apple believes most people set up automatic app updates. I gave in on that with the iPhone 7, since the number and frequency of updates was overwhelming (admittedly, I have a boatload of apps). So that particular action may not have seemed sufficiently important.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-13 16:36
Regardless of how these things are advertised, there are two basic approaches: canned answers and arbitrary AI responses. All companies are working on both simultaneously.

The canned answers will work much better for now, but only if you get the question right. The AI responses are much harder to provide but more magical when they work.

I believe AI stuff will be much more successful in something like autonomous driving, because the response set is so much more constrained than in human conversation.
john Springer  2017-07-18 00:08
I am so done with Siri. I would love to use it especially when driving, to send a text or find a place. I have tried so many times. It always ends in total frustration and me swearing at the damn phone.
I am so sick of "I didn't quite get what you said". Or simply nonesensical responses. It is not worth the grief.