Two weeks ago, a guy from New York filed a class-action lawsuit in a California court, accusing Apple for “misleading” customers with Siri features set. Expect more of the same as another dude files a complaint, specifically mentioning “false and deceptive representations” of Siri’s capabilities in nationwide advertising.

The plaintiff claims television commercials that depict what Siri is capable of “diverge greatly” from real world experience. To be perfectly clear, Siri does tend to behave somewhat erratically from time to time, though Apple warns it’s a beta product.

The question is, should Apple heavily promote a beta product as the key feature of the iPhone 4S and – more importantly – is Siri advertising accurate and honest?

According to The Los Angeles Times, iPhone 4S owner David Jones on Tuesday filed suit against Apple in a U.S. District Court over false advertising of the Siri service.

The article explains:

Through its nationwide multimedia marketing campaign, Apple disseminates false and deceptive representations regarding the functionality of the Siri feature. For example, in many of Apple’s television commercials, consumers are shown using Siri to make appointments, find restaurants, and even to learn the guitar chords to classic rock songs. In its advertisements, Apple depicts these tasks as easily accomplished “just by asking” Siri.

The problem is, Jones’ suit reads, that Siri “would either not understand what Plaintiff asked, or, after a long wait, provided the wrong answer”. The plaintiff is seeking class-action status so “relief and damages” for all iPhone 4S owners could be in the cards.

According to a recent study, 87 percent of iPhone 4S owners use Siri at least once a month.

Anything is possible in a sue-happy culture like ours, but anyone using Siri can attest to at least “wrong answers” and “long waits”. I’m using Siri on a daily basis for a variety of tasks and have experienced at least a dozen service outages so far.

I’m not sure about “wrong answers”, though as Siri gets facts and answers to queries from third-party services, such as Yelp, Wolfram Alpha and so forth.

As for advertising, I have a minor complaint of my own. Early Siri commercials available on YouTube did not include the standard “sequences shortened” line. Only later, following complaints, did Apple begin including the disclaimer briefly at the end, such as in the latest Rock God advert embedded above.

“Sequences shortened” is for consumer protection, so prospective iPhone 4S buyers know in advance that Siri may not provide answers instantly as the adverts would have them believe.

Siri requires network connection to the Apple cloud and a number of factors influence its response time, including server load, network congestion, etc. It is also true that neither the Siri promo page nor the FAQ properly educate users on the many factors affecting reliability of the service.

As a result, real world experience with Siri does differ from the adverts and that’s why folks can take Apple to court and accuse them of false advertising.

I remember a similar argument had been used in complaints over the iPhone 3GS advertising, forcing Apple to use the “sequences shortened” disclaimer.

Latest example? The “4G” iPad situation in Australia and elsewhere.

It could have easily been avoided so I guess my question would be, why the disconnect?

Why Apple needs to be dragged to the courtroom before its marketing incorporates those disclaimers into commercials?

  • a beta product is either closed or open…siri is neither as you dont opt into getting it. it has been released to the masses as the main feature.

    • We basically paid to be “testers”! Should be other way around

      • lets sue for our pay

      • Imahottguy

        Ya know, you were never forced to use Siri. In fact, you have to push and hold a button to access it. Apple certainly is not the first company to include beta features in a paid product.

      • @Imahottgay…(weird name by the way)…siri comes on when you hold her up to your ear. no pushing and waiting for this little nosy girl to chime in

      • Okey first Imahottguy’s name ends with “guy” not “gay” and second, Siri is activated when you push and hold the home button, not by holding her up to your ear! That only works when she is already activated in which case you need to pick and hold the home button! Please get your facts straight 🙂

      • @Cameron Carlyon …obviously you need to get your facts right. so listen carefully ma’am, take your iphone 4s, and with the screen on, lift it up to your ear. whats that’s that you hear? thats siri. but something tells me, you don’t have an iPhone 4S since you didn’t know that. now be a nice little girl and run along 😛

      • Technically Gmail is still beta. If everyone thought like you, they might have never released it.

      • thats why i use yahoo mail. unlimited storage, 25meg attachments…and best of all, folders with forwarding. and email from certain contacts gets automatically put into the folder i preselected for them. gmail is lacking

  • Personally, I don’t believe any product in beta should be given to the public and advertised for a selling point. Apple, you’re such a fantastic company, do the work properly and then sell a fully functional product. Don’t get the public to do your work for you and not pay them for it. That’s what your staff should be doing. Also I HATE false advertising/misleading information to make a profit of any sort.
    I like my iPhone 4 at the moment because it’s working fine. But unfortunately it was up to me to drive miles away to find your only store in my county, 3 times within the first month of purchase to get a phone that didn’t have any problems. Even now iTunes is not working right with my phone. Apple, your products look nice and occasionally work well but if there’s no major improvement on the next iPhone then I’m off to android and I don’t care and am not remotely interested in what any apple fanboy has got to say about that.
    I’m looking forward to the new iPhone so come on apple, build and show me something wonderful that will REALLY want me to stay. ; )

    • Im a fanboy and i dont see anywhere that you were wrong. U summed up most of my thoughts exactly =)

    • Pray tell, what’s wrong with your iTunes?

      • Got errors when I restored my phone. Photos are put in a random order onto my phone. It says it can’t find songs that are on my music list and checked but fails to put them onto my phone. I’ve had other problems but off the top of my head I can’t remember cause I haven’t used iTunes at all this year.

      • ReanimationXP

        Sounds like bad luck, I’ve never seen any of that happen and I worked on 25+ iDevices over the years.

      • @reanimationxp
        Sounds like you’ve one of the lucky ones. Lots of people I know have had/having similar problems and there are cases of it happening all over the Internet.
        Hopefully apple will get it all right one day. I know it’s not just apple.

  • I can’t believe the amount of people who support yahoos for suing over every single frivelous thing. I use Siri on a daily basis. It’s not perfect, but what is? If you look at all of the Siri commercials, do the exact commands that the actors do, it works almost 100% of the time. Don’t know how this guy can win this lawsuit.

    • Imahottguy

      Isn’t it crazy? In America, everybody sues you! 🙁

      • I don’t know how anyone keeps track of these…

    • Ronald Weaver

      Agreed 100%

  • Anonymous

    Is it just me or is everyone and their mum gunning for apple at the moment
    All that money they were bragging about and they still can’t wash the crap of their shoes

  • Imahottguy

    This is ridiculous. SInce when do we as consumers rely on advertising ALONE when purchasing a product. If I am going to spend more than a couple hundred bucks on something, I am going to at least perform a google search to see what others think about it. Obviously the early adopters don’t have that benefit, but they don’t seem to mind as long as the koolaid is there for them in line. Of course Apple would like nothing better than for us to rely solely on their ads when considering whether or not to get an iPhone or iPad; better not look them up, we might not like what we read. Jesus Christ people, when you realize that relying on the commercial for infoz on a product was a bad idea, you don’t then sue the company! You wait for someone to say “I told you so!”, gawl!

    • Imagine apple being honest and making an advert saying “Get an iPhone 4s. It looks exactly like an iPhone 4 but has a feature called Siri that doesn’t as well as we make out it works!”. They wouldn’t make nearly as much money on that phone I would imagine. Most companies know that a majority buy products because of advertising and false advertising is just wrong.

      • I’m just guessing, but I would be willing to bet both of my thumbs that less than 5% of ads don’t hide anything. The rest are false advertising in one way or another.

      • Surely not BOTH thumbs! That made me laugh, nice one.

    • I’d like to sue every crappy movie that I’ve ever watch at the movie theatre! The trailers advertise one thing, and when we go see it, it turns out to be anything but, what the trailer implies.

  • Hatyrei

    WOw so Siri is still in Beta? I bought an iPhone 4S cuz they advertise it as a New FEATure for the “.iPhone 4S”…. That make sense…Siri doesn’t do as advertise in real world. This is fraud! I would gladly return my 4s and get a refund.

    • Do it!

      • Hatyrei

        I purchased my 4S at first release date October 14 2011., And I was so excited about the Siri commercial of what it can do. But in reality it’s far from advertise ! Simply a fraud. I hope I can still return this phone :(.

      • So your telling me, just like in the commercial, when you tell siri “what’s the weather like?” you don’t get the correct answer?

        When you ask “set a timer for 30 minutes” it doesn’t do it?

        Tell Siri “wake me up in 1 hour” it doesn’t do that?

        That’s what these commercials have in them. What’s false about that? I’m trying to sound like a major fanboy but what is so far fetched from the commercial that makes you think they are being frauds? I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

      • That’s all people got to do! You get 14 days to return and exchange for an Android that’s worst. People got to sue? Just return the damn thing. Geez people!

      • Have you tried every android phone? In what way is a good android phone worse?

  • Personally the biggest problem I have with the commercials is that they don’t tell you that Siri is a beta feature. Not mentioning that little detail is false advertising.

    • I personally believe that the only reason, they attach ‘Beta’ is to protect themselves from sue happy users. That’s just my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    So far this week:
    – Woman sues apple for walking into the glass apple store doors.
    – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission sues apple over the “4G” iPad.
    – Benjamin Grobler sues apple for iTunes infringing his “Data Vending” patent.
    – Another person sues apple over Siri advertising being “False and Deceptive.”
    I am sick and tired of all these lawsuits….

    • Amen to that. Don’t these people have better things to do? The next one will be Apple getting sued for breathing the same air on this earth. Sheesh!

  • Anonymous

    People kill me. Siri is in beta. Beta – preliminary or testing stage of a software or hardware product; “a beta version”; “beta software”

  • Haha, these lawsuits really are getting out of hand. Maybe we are all going to be sued by anyone by talking and texting in the future; if we don’t add legal notices and regulatories at the end of our conversations.

  • Hatyrei

    I always wonder in the commercial Siri always reply faster than the actual…. Lest Sue Apple 🙂