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Apple's Siri not as smart as she looks, lawsuit charges

A new lawsuit seeking class action says Siri doesn't work anywhere near as well as Apple's TV ads suggest.

Siri being sassy.
Siri being sassy.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple's been a little overzealous in the way it's advertised Siri, the voice assistant feature found on the company's latest iPhone, a new lawsuit claims.

iPhone 4S buyer Frank Fazio says the software feature simply didn't work like it did in Apple's television advertising. And now he's suing Apple in the Northern District of California.

"Promptly after the purchase of his iPhone 4S, [Fazio] realized that Siri was not performing as advertised," Fazio's complaint states. "For instance, when [Fazio] asked Siri for directions to a certain place, or to locate a store, Siri either did not understand what Plaintiff was asking, or after a very long wait time, responded with the wrong answer."

As a result, Fazio supposedly believes that Apple has been overpromising what the software can do for potential buyers.

"Notwithstanding Apple's extensive multi-million dollar advertising campaign showcasing the Siri feature, and the fact that the iPhone 4S is more expensive than the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S's Siri feature does not perform as advertised, rendering the iPhone 4S merely a more expensive iPhone 4," the suit says.

The suit alleges that Apple is in violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, California's Unfair Competition Law, is in breach of warranty, and has committed both intentional and negligent misrepresentation. Fazio's attorneys are seeking class action for other iPhone 4S owners, with the claimed end goal of ending Apple's sales of the device, as well as damages. (You can be forgiven for thinking the lawyers might be a tad more interested in the latter than the former.)

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple launched Siri alongside the iPhone 4S last October. The feature uses the iPhone 4S' built-in microphone, taking user commands and turning them into actions on the phone. That includes searching the Web, setting reminders, and checking stock prices. Those queries are piped through Apple's servers then fed back to the phone.

Siri remains exclusive to Apple's newest iPhone model in "beta" form, a rarity for the company, which tends not to release software or hardware labeled as a work in progress. Apple has not said what, if any, extra features or changes will come to the service short of extending it to other languages, which it did last week when it added support for Japanese.

Alongside claims that Apple misrepresented the feature to would-be buyers, the lawsuit claims that using Siri "dramatically increases an iPhone 4S user's monthly data usage, and can easily push users over their data plans," citing a gamut of tests done by Ars Technica shortly after the device was released.

This is the latest legal volley to target Apple's advertising of an iPhone. A separate suit that reached class action status combined the claims from 18 separate lawsuits, and said Apple was "misrepresenting and concealing material information in the marketing, advertising, sale, and servicing of its iPhone 4--particularly as it relates to the quality of the mobile phone antenna and reception and related software." That suit was settled last month.