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.