Apple’s Siri digital secretary, now a feature present on the iPhone 4S/5, the new fifth-generation iPod touch and third-generation iPad, is infamous for Apple’s over-the-top advertising, availability issues and inaccuracies.

Still in beta, Siri in iOS 6 is more reliable and faster. It can now display sports scores, help you make restaurant reservations, discover showtimes, watch movie trailers in-line and more. It is also tightly integrated with Apple Maps and more broadly available.

A law student is taking issue with how Siri responds to questions like “what’s the best smartphone/tablet ever”. As you know, based on web customer review average scores, Siri briefly used to name the Lumia 900 the best smartphone ever unitl Apple recalibrated her to favor the iPhone (with responses like “the one you’re holding”), much to Nokia’s disgust

Adam Z. Lein, writing for PocketNow, explains that law student Sean DeVries is suing Apple over what he referred to as Siri sponsored responses:

One of our law-student Pocketnow readers decided to sue Apple about this on-device false advertising simply out of principle.

Sean DeVries’ goal is to get Apple to at least change their website and end user agreement to include this information though an indicator of “sponsored responses” would be best during Siri’s answers.

Sean’s court date is scheduled for October 9th.

In a nutshell, Sean argues that Apple is intentionally obscuring more relevant information in order to promote its own products, without making it clear in Siri responses.

As amusing as Siri’s responses can be, I can sympathise with Sean in that average customers are not aware that Siri’s responses to questions like these are meant to entertain.

What do you think, does this constitute as unfair competition and subtle advertising?

Should Apple be dragged to court over Siri sponsored responses?

  • Is that a homework for that law student or something?

  • Asking which product is “best” is often a biased opinion depending on your needs/desires. I don’t think Siri’s response is unjust.

    • It’s supposed to take the answer from custom reviews, not their own opinions. That’s like asking someone if their competitors are better than them.

      • Tom

        “supposed to”? Says who?

  • Blake

    That is the one of the dumbest law suits I have ever heard of. Its apple software, they own it, they can have it say whatever they want. It is THEIRS.

    • Johnathan Jennings

      But it’s also false advertisement. That’s like apple saying the iPhone 5 has a 4 inch screen, and then when you get it, it really has 3.5″ screen. I don’t know which side id be on in this case.

      • Blake

        That is completely different. What you said about the screen size is a fact. What phone is the best is complete opinion..

      • Johnathan Jennings

        Nope.. In the screenshot it says “by customer review average”. Meaning its a fact. But the fact may change, then siri’s answer will change. Make since..? Hope I could help

      • Blake

        Thats wilfram alpha and is based on a couple of reviews from best buy (look it up) by siri saying that Iphone is the best and she is not showing any data resources she is essentially giving her opinion.

      • But the “The one you are holding” says nothing about Customer Reviews.

      • Blake

        Exactly, it is too vague. Apple can say whatever it wants about its own products, its an opinion. They are not saying that “the iPhone is the best and we have all these facts and statistics to prove it” and then not having those facts. That would be false advertising. But that is NOT the case.

      • Quincy Johnson

        Siri is supposed to be like a verbal search engine like a verbal google. Now if you googled “what is the best smart phone?”, and the results said iPhone, not because it was from customer reviews, but only becuase it was programmed to say that then Apple is intentionally obscuring more relevant information in order to
        promote its own products, without making it clear in Siri responses.

    • abujafer

      No, it’s like a phone blocking certain websites. It does seem a bit trivial, but the dude has a point.

      I doubt he’ll get any money out of it; at worst, Apple will just pay the guy in fees and add the three words or so to the “Terms and Conditions.”

  • It’s an apple product, who wouldn’t put their own products. If the service was owned by another company…I would see this going somewhere, other than that, no. He is just adding to the college loans he will need to pay back with legal fees now.

    • Actually they can’t. Google was fined few years back for promoting their own product in Google SERPs.

    • Dave_Lui

      I concur!
      Also, just noticed that the battery is draining every minute a %

  • This is crazy. This is like telling McDonalds that they can’t call their fry’s America;s best fry’s

    It’s a matter of opnion and if you bought an apple phone and Siri tells you that that’s the best phone then what’s the difference.

    • Not when it’s supposed to take the results from reviews. So basically you’d be okay if they changed World War II to occur in the 1600th century?

      • Tom

        That’s a stupid analogy.

      • Imahottguy

        But the problem with your argument is that you are saying that Apple is making Siri say that iDevices are better but make it appear as if it is checking Wolphram Alpha and basing the results on customer reviews, but that is not the case. When I ask Siri what the best phone is, it gives me a comical one liner without suggesting that it based any of the joke on fact. This lawsuit is the epitome of frivolousness

      • Blake

        Exactly!

      • A) stupid analogy
        B) 1600th century? damn it’ll be a LONG time before World War 2 happens, considering we are only in the 21st century. we have 1580 centuries to go. i hope you aren’t basing your “i’m awesome” on your intelligence, you are severely lacking.

  • VATekMan

    The issue is not the answer, but the fact that Apple had to “tweak” something to get the answer. The question that this person is asking is, how often are the results that come back “tweaked” because, maybe someone is paying apple. What if the question is, “what is the best Italian restaurant around.” Would you expect Siri to pick the one with the best reviews or does it pick the one that paid Apple something to be “the best”. This person is just asking for truth in advertising.

    • companies pay Google to be higher up on the list in search results. placement costs money, so you don’t really win with that argument. it’s not overly ethical, but google does it and so do many other companies. Siri saying, especially the way it is worded, that the iPhone is the best or the iPad is the best is simply Siri being funny and stating an opinion. it is an Apple product and Apple can have their product say they are the best, as that is their opinion. it does not offer up any statistics, false or true, and doesn’t provide any information to corroborate so it is not making a claim, it is stating an opinion. do you really expect an Apple product to say a Google product or Samsung product is the best? do you expect a Samsung product to say an Apple product is the best? seriously think about that.

      this is a stupid frivolous lawsuit with no merit whatsoever like so many others. this stinks of the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit. “i burned myself because i was so stupid i put a cup of coffee (a hot product) between my legs while i was driving, and the cup didn’t have a disclaimer to tell me it was hot.” are you friggen kidding me?! bunch of losers in this world looking for a quick buck. pull your heads out of your rectums and join reality. i shouldn’t have to tell you water is wet, coffee is hot, steak is dead cow….these are all common sense things that everyone should know. just as anyone and everyone should know that when you ask an APPLE product who the best phone is, it is GOING to tell you an APPLE product, just like Samsung would say Samsung, and so on. SMH

      • VATekMan

        I love that McDonalds comment, because it shows how stupid you are. If you actually knew about that lawsuit, you would know that they did find that the temperature in the coffee dispenser was a great deal higher than it ever should have been, and McDonalds admitted to this. All you know about is the sound bite that Mc Donalds was allowed to release because they lost, but the lady who did get seriously burned was under a gag order, so could not defend herself…

        Besides, what do you think that a lawsuit of one company telling another company, “no fair, you look too much like me, I copied prior designs first, you can not copy them tooo” is any better?

        I never said that Google was any better. The sites that get raised in rank from paying, they are listed as sponsored results in Google. Companies do pay other companies trying to game the Google search algorithm but this is not Google’s fault, they actively try to prevent this…

      • Yes, VATekMan is right. Companies pay for google results are sponsored links and they have separate section on search result page. like in sidebar and yellow color box on top. Google do not promote those links in organic serp.

        Also, google itself is not allowed to promote it’s own products and services in organic search section. They got fined earlier for doing that.

        Same applies to Apple, when you ask this question, iphone is mocking to retrieve results from Wolphram Alpha but they are not showing correct answer but fabricated one.

      • “companies pay Google to be higher up on the list in search results”

        That is not correct. Companies only pay for ads.

  • Falk M.

    Boy, grow some humor…

    The peeps buying those jokely responses for facts are probably best of with an iDevice either way lol

  • Wolfgang Loss-Wells

    Give me a break. WOFTAM. Waste-of-f******g-time-and-money.

  • If he wants to sue Apple for that, he should sue every Company out there, as most of them are claiming to produce the best Products.

    • Nothing wrong in claiming you own product to be best in the world but it’s wrong when you are editing the 3rd party results.

      Just like a restaurant advertising that it’s top rated restaurant on yelp by reviews but in fact it’s not ture. It’s false advertising.

      • Nobody’s editing a 3rd Party Result. Apple has its own Result, it is not committed to rely on 3rd Party Sources.

      • Tom

        Notice how there’s no wolfram alpha in the screenshots where it Siri says iPhone and iPad are the best? It’s not trying to pass it off as a 3rd party results. In fact, the slight comedic wording of the responses gives the impression they aren’t meant to be taken as true fact.

  • goofygreek

    google got sued over the same thing, (not siri, but promoting their own products) why shouldnt apple get sued over it?

  • Personally i like these answers i think they are funny and it makes it seem like siri has AI and is answering her opinion, however id be a little annoyed if i asked “what is the best phone according to customer reviews” and it gave me false info.
    If you asked someone “whats the best tv show or film” they will give you their opinion if you ask “whats the best film according to box office sales” you’re looking for fact.
    Besides the internet is full of misinformation and so is television if you called up a radio station and asked them what the best radio show is and they gave you theirs you couldn’t sue them ffs. things like “best” is opinion based, best at what? best looking, best at multitasking, best at fitting in your pocket, best at being named after a fruit?

  • Obsidian71

    I’m not aware of any ToS that states that Siri cannot promote products. They promote restaurants via Yelp all the time. DeVries won’t even make it to court with this one. He’s way out of his depth.

  • Ahhh training attorneys in frivolous suits 101 I see……….

  • jasontoheal

    My iPhone has an Apple logo on it with no disclaimer. Hmmm.

  • jasontoheal

    I expect this will end the same as the people who tried to sue Apple when their screens broke.

  • chjode

    I think the better option would be to identify the source of the information. So, in the case of the Lumia 900, I believe that info was culled by Wolfram Alpha based on data from Best Buy .com customer reviews. So, why not put the little note at the bottom that says “Advertisement” or “Bestbuy .com via Wolfram Alpha” or whatnot?

  • He wants to add more text to the EULA that nobody reads to begin with… who says our courts are systemically slowed down by frivolous suits?

  • Luis Finke

    stupid as hell

  • kevinstallone

    But the iPad is the best tablet =D

  • Kenneth Lin

    “As amusing as Siri’s responses can be, I can sympathise with Sean in that average customers are not aware that Siri’s responses to questions like these are meant to entertain.”

    Are you serious?