Siri needs features to match the competition

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| August 12, 2014

I've been seeing a lot of the same commercial as of late. It's a pretty straightforward piece of advertising, with an iPhone 5s on the left, and a Windows Phone-based handset on the right. It's a Lumia 635. Honestly, a lot of the advertisements out there, especially the ones that offer up a comparison of Apple-based products, just miss the mark in a big way. That's not the case with this one.

To be completely transparent, the ad doesn't actually show Apple's personal assistant, Siri, doing much of anything, except offering general platitudes for not being able to do anything. Especially not the things that Cortana can. Not that this is a slight against Siri, because in truth the software can't, or just doesn't do what Cortana can in the ads.

The ad's entitled "Happy Anniversary," and it depicts a user reminding himself to wish his wife a happy anniversary, by telling Cortana -- Microsoft's digital personal assistant for their mobile platform -- to remind him the next time his wife calls. She says she'll go ahead and do that, and presumably that works (we don't actually get to see her call, obviously, so we'll just have to take the commercial's word for it.)

The user then tells Cortana to remind him to buy flowers for his wife (for their anniversary, of course) when he's around "any" flower shop. Of course, Cortana is quick to the task, and offers up her assistance. The ad ends with Cortana offering up a traffic alert, and letting the user know they should "get going."

If I tell the iPhone 5s to remind me to do something when I get home, it will do that. But, it won't remind me to buy flowers from a flower shop, or pick up milk from a grocery store if I start to pass one on my way home. It won't remind me to do anything if someone calls me, either. I can tell it to remind me, when I get home or at a specific time (or date), to call someone if I want, and that's certainly something. But, I can do that, and get the aforementioned features from Cortana.

A lot of people think Apple is playing catch-up with everyone else, when it comes to software and features. Apple started a few things, and then other companies jumped on board and then surpassed the idea in their own way. Admittedly, this is definitely the case with Cortana. They built on the idea of Siri, and made it better.

Along the way, Apple's been determined to keep the features minimal, to make sure the experience doesn't get tarnished.

It has worked, for the most part. My most stable experiences on smartphones (and tablets) has been on iOS-based devices since 2007, with Windows Phone a very close second at this point. But I'm just ready for it to not be the case anymore. Specifically, I know that Apple's engineers and developers inside the Apple HQ can develop these features that are present in Cortana (and Google Now) in some way or another, to help Siri improve. All without having to weaken the platform as a whole.

iOS 8 has plenty of great changes, and there's plenty to look forward to in the platform (especially if you plan to upgrade to OS X Yosemite), but I know it could be better. Right now. I don't want to wait for iOS before I get traffic updates from Siri.

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