How Verizon almost made Siri an Android exclusive

By , Jan 23, 2013

iPad mini siri 4

Apple’s digital secretary, Siri, arrived as an iPhone 4S exclusive in October 2011, but the feature almost ended up being exclusive to Android devices on the Verizon network. According to a new report, Verizon in the fall of 2009 managed to sign a deal with the startup to make Siri a default app on all Android phones set to launch in the new year. It’s interesting that the agreement was signed several months before Apple approached Siri and that the carrier even created unreleased ads highlighting Siri on Android.

Several months later, Apple came into full view to acquire the startup outright, effectively making the feature exclusive to its devices and narrowly escape seeing Siri falling into hands of the Android camp…

HuffingtonPost has the story on Siri’s surprising origins:

In the fall of 2009, several months before Apple approached Siri, Verizon had signed a deal with the startup to make Siri a default app on all Android phones set to launch in the new year. When Apple swooped in to buy Siri, it insisted on making the assistant exclusive to Apple devices, and nixed the Verizon deal.

In the process, it narrowly avoided seeing Siri become a selling point for smartphones powered by its biggest rival, Google. (Somewhere in the vaults of the wireless giant, there are unreleased commercials touting Siri as an Android add-on.)

In February 2010, Siri co-founder Dag Kittlaus received a phone call from Steve Jobs that “he nearly missed thanks to a glitchy, unresponsive iPhone screen”. Jobs invited Kittlaus to come over for dinner the following day and discuss a deal.

Jobs and outgoing iOS chief Scott Forstall loved Siri’s snark and it was an area of interest to them, Kittlaus recalls.

The story that I’m told is that he thought we’d cracked that paradigm with our simple, conversational interface.

They were able to negotiate a deal so Apple’s purchase basically nixed the deal Verizon had already made with Siri. The article contains a bunch of other interesting tidbits related to the real history of Siri, how it came to be, including DARPA, DOD, CALO, PAL, defense contracts and what not (I’m sure there’s sex in there somewhere).

Here’s a video of the CALO project which was part of the DARPA-funded ‘Personal Assistant that Learns’ program. It would ultimately become Siri as we know her today.

I think it’s safe to say now that Apple was lucky to snap up Siri before Verizon could make it an Android exclusive. Just imagine the Siri ads featuring Verizon’s Android handsets instead of the iPhone.

It could have been a major blow to Apple because Android already had the upper hand in search integration, maps services and turn-by-turn navigation. With something as powerful as Siri, Android would have had another major selling point.

Unfortunately, as you know, following the initial excitement, complaints about Siri’s lack of offline mode (it relies on network connectivity), occasional coffee breaks, limited international availability and over-the-top commercials have somewhat subdued interest for the feature.

I still use Siri to set my reminders, alarms and calendar entries, perform currency conversions and do some basic math. Sometimes I even ask her to perform a Google search or pull some obscure fact from Wolfram Alpha.

Do you still use Siri?

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  • Liam Mulcahy

    I use siri a lot.

  • http://twitter.com/Chindavon Chindavon

    Yes I do. Mostly for basic stuff, but it’s being used on a daily basis.

  • Canchume

    I use Siri everyday

  • jorith

    Only use it for timers and alarm clock, but thats the only area where its faster then opening the app. Hope they ad some more international support, might use it more that way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.higgins.12 Brandon Higgins

    I only use voice dictation and maps voice navigation.

  • http://twitter.com/BUCNThomas Zach

    I use Siri whenever I’m driving

  • http://twitter.com/shane_e46 Shane Sepeda

    I use Siri to text and drive.

  • http://twitter.com/burlow burlow

    siri has taken over the basic stuff:

    setting reminders, alarms, timers…calendar events, messaging, email searching, looking up basic stats/conversions, movie times/actors/etc, everything sports related… ….it’s turned into quite the handy assistant.

  • http://twitter.com/ItsDidrick Didrick Namtvedt

    I got an iPod Touch 5G for christmas and I’ve been using Siri often since then. I use her to look up places around me, set reminders, get info about various topics, set timers and also for the occasional chit chat when I’m bored ;P I think Siri will become even more useful over time with future updates, she’ll hopefully speak more languages (here’s hoping my language Norwegian will be one of the new languages she will speak), improved answering on various topics without always referring to a web search and also provide full functionality worldwide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/LethoeshatedadedicatedfatherGreen Keith Green

    That video is so funny. Typical military training video. Lol. I only use Siri for small things and showing off when somebody needs an answer quick.

  • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

    I use Rainstone Siri for basic definitions, setting reminders/alarms and weather details

  • House4life

    i cant even remember the last time i opened the clock app to set my morning alarm, siri does a great job !

  • $18411032

    I deactivated it on my iPhone. Siri doesn’t work well enough to use on a regular basis. Either it can’t connect, didn’t understand what you said, or provides irrelevant results.

    Much faster to just type what I want to do.

    Frankly, I never got the love affair with it by the media. Beyond party tricks, I don’t know anyone that even bothers with Siri for many of the same reasons I’ve listed.

  • Hi

    If Siri was an Android exclusive, I wouldn’t use it half as much as I use Google Now unless Google made it as fast as Google Now is. I have a 30Mbp/s+ connection, and Siri is painfully slow, but some of the stuff it can do is nice.