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Hanging with Siri

CNET spends quality time with the iPhone 4S' Siri voice assistant to see what she's all about.

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Kent German
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1 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German

Siri: Smart, sly, and sarcastic

Siri quickly has emerged as the most talked-about feature on the iPhone 4S. Part personal assistant, part encyclopedia, and part friend, Siri follows your commands and attempts to deliver information when you need it. I spent quality time with Siri during my second day with Sprint's iPhone 4S and asked her a long list of questions. I tried to stump her, and I succeeded at times, but she also surprised me with the range of factoids that she keeps stored away. And like I said, she's got an attitude.


When I first used Siri the day the iPhone 4 was announced, she wasn't able to come up with the capital of Canada. Since she interfaces with Wikipedia, I was surprised not to get an answer, but she did reply correctly when I used another iPhone 4S just over a week later. So, good for her.


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2 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German

Who was vice president in 1873?

She knows a lot about history. Indeed, I never would have guessed correctly.
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3 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

What is the population of Uzbekistan?

She also knows her geography.
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4 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German

What is real?

She's a dictionary.
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5 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German

What is the square root of 4,375,212?

And she's a math whiz.
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6 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German

What is the distance to Denver?

When you ask for distances to a city in the United States, Suri answers with not only the mileage but also directions in Google Maps. At this time, however, she is unable to offer mileage to cities outside the U.S. If you ask for the distance to a Canadian city, she'll offer to do a Web search. But when you ask for cities overseas (like Tokyo, for instance) she'll say that she's unable to answer.
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7 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German

What's the distance to the moon?

On the other hand, when you ask the distance to extraterrestrial places, Siri will give just the mileage.
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8 of 26 Screenshot by Stephen Yarbrough

How far is Honolulu?

Either Siri knows about a secret government tunnel or she thinks I have a floating car. In any case, I don't know what to make of the detour through Seattle.
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9 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German

What happened on February 31, 2011?

Siri was smart enough to know that February doesn't have 31 days. Even better, she calculated the correct date as March 3.
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10 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German

Where is the lost iPhone prototype?

We don't have the answer to this question, and neither did Siri. In fact, most questions about Apple products will direct you to Apple.com.
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What language do they speak in Switzerland?

I learned that you have to be very specific with Siri. When I phrased the question like this, she got a little confused and offered me places that match "language" near Switzerland, Fla.
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What is the national language of Switzerland?

When I asked the question like this, however, she got the right answer quickly. She even included Romansch.
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Where do Shetland ponies come from?

I expected her to get the "Shetland" reference, but I stumped Siri here. When she doesn't know the answer, she'll offer to do a Web search.
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14 of 26 Screenshot by Kent German

Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?

To her credit, though, Siri did get this question correct. She even got that it was a trick question.
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What would you do for a Klondike bar?

When Siri can't get the answer, she will center on familiar words in the question. That's why a question about an ice cream bar delivered an answer about nearby watering holes.
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Who shot J.R.?

Siri is quite good at pop culture references. She gets extra points for knowing the Mary Crosby bit.
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How many licks does it take?

The kid in the classic television commercial said, "The world may never know." But Siri does.
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Does God exist?

Siri can be humble and self-aware. Or maybe in this case, the smartest answer is to not answer the question.
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Where is the best sushi?

When asked for nearby points of interest, Siri answers with a list of establishments. And when you ask for a preference, she gives a ranked list.
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When is the next United Airlines flight to Hong Kong?

Unfortunately, Siri couldn't answer any questions about airline schedules.
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Who is Siri?

It's nice to see that she knows her own name.
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Who is Suri Cruise?

I didn't have as much luck with Suri Cruise. I did, however, get a very useful list of local cruises.
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Are you a Democrat or a Republican?

Sometimes, Siri is smarter than you think.
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Do you love me?

And other times, she's mean.
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Where can I get hammered?

I'm not even going to try to explain this one.
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Who is yo' mama?

Poor Siri.

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