Why Siri + Yelp = Useless Google Maps On The iPhone 4S

It sounds great. Speak into Siri about some local need, get nice results from Yelp’s reviews. In reality, it’s pretty easy instead to end up stuck with only a phone number and directions from Google Maps.

From Siri To Yelp To Google Maps

Consider this example, which illustrates the situation I’ve repeatedly found to be true with Siri:

I asked Siri for “Places to eat.” It pretty awesomely interpreted that to mean nearby restaurants, a natural language query that Google Voice Actions, as I’ve tested them, disappoints on.

Selecting a restaurant from the nice list, which comes from Yelp and includes star ratings, leads not to the actual listing in Yelp but rather into Google Maps. Once there, you can’t even get to a Google Maps place page with more details about the restaurant. Instead, you end up with only the phone number and address of the restaurant.

And No Going Back

That’s pretty unhelpful. What I think most people would want are more details about the restaurant itself. And after reading those, they may want to go back to the original list, to check out another restaurant. But you can’t do that, either. Siri has no back button. Instead, you have to speak your search all over again.

The Full Yelp Experience

Now consider this:

That’s a search using the Yelp app on the iPhone. I wasn’t able to speak to the iPhone 4S and have the first screen of restaurants appear, so there’s no “wow” factor. Instead, I opened Yelp and picked restaurants the old-fashioned way.

After doing that, I selected a restaurant and got what you’d think Siri should offer, a page with more details about the restaurant, with the ability to drill down even further as shown on the third screen — and always the ability to go back.

Google Doesn’t Do Natural Language Well

As I said, Google does pretty badly with the natural language queries that Siri is designed to handle. Here’s an example of when I spoke “Places to eat” on my Droid Charge:

There’s no nice list, not even any localization going on, plus you get an ad shoved in a the top, among the disappointments.

But Bests Siri On Standard Search Experience

However, speak your search not as a natural language query but as people might typically type — “Restaurants” — and Google does better. Consider first Siri:

It’s the same disappointing system I described at the start — a nice list, but without the detailed follow-through that you’d expect. Now that same search spoken into the Droid Charge (and which you could do on any iPhone, if you have the Google Search App that allows speech recognition):

I have to scroll on the results that appear to get to the nice list — Google could improve there by making those higher up. But once I do, it’s easy to drill in and get more details about any restaurant, and then go back to the original list.

More Testing To Come

It’s probably fairly easy for Apple to fix things in Siri so that the results lead further into Yelp’s listings. I’m surprised they aren’t this way already. Hopefully, it’ll happen.

Also, expect more reviews of Siri from us shortly. We’ve only just gotten our collective hands on the iPhone 4S through retail channels, so this weekend will be a lot of testing time.

Related Topics: Apple: Siri | Channel: Mobile | Google: Voice Search | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • jvancitters

    Danny, you can go directly to the Yelp reviews for further info. I query Siri with “I want Italian food” or “I feel like a burger” and it pulls up the relevant results. Then scroll to the bottom of the results and note the bar at the bottom that says “Reviews from Yelp.” Tap on it. If you have the Yelp app, it launches and takes you to the reviews. If you don’t have the Yelp app, it launches the mobile site. The functionality IS there, the UI could be more directly obvious and handled as similar items in iOS are (such as clicking the blue arrow icon next to a recent call that brings up contact info, etc. Having that next to each listing with an option to locate on map or read more on Yelp! would likely be a better solution.

    Also, worth noting Apple considers Siri still beta. I suspect massive data gathering is going on right now to evaluate how people are using Siri with many refinements to come when it leaves beta – my bet is for iPad 3 launch in Spring.

  • http://www.planetc1.com/ Michael Dorausch

    Danny, I’m curious regarding your location when conducting these searches. When using Siri, were you nearby the Fashion Mall (Trump, Wynn)? Reason I ask is the cluster of restaurants appears several blocks north of the city centroid. By contrast, Google serves their traditional North-South cluster with A (Eiffel Tower) near dead center to their centroid data.

  • http://beaulaurier.com/about Joe Beaulaurier

    Granted the Google voice search, in all it’s awesomeness, doesn’t have a natural language interpreter layer like that demonstrated in Siri. To do a real apples-to-apples (pun unintended) comparison you really need to have Pannous’ Voice Actions installed on the Android. I’ve only begun using it and took it to task using your examples and that of commentors. “Where’s the nearest restaurant” and “Find an Italian restaurant nearby” worked great. But “I feel like a burger” yielded a humorous result, as I guess could have been expected.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Michael, I was right near the Fashion Mall, yep.

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