Apple’s 2011 “Let’s talk iPhone” event at its Cupertino headquarters was a pivotal moment for the company. It was the first big showcase for new CEO Tim Cook as he tried to fill the shoes of the legendary but ailing Steve Jobs. Yet the event threatened to disappoint because the company’s new iPhone, the 4s, was simply an incremental update and not a flashy new iPhone 5.
Siri saved the day. Apple unveiled the digital assistant and showed off its ability to respond to voice commands that created reminders, scheduled calendar events or brought up information on restaurants or weather. Critics marveled at Siri’s potential and speculated that Apple might have developed another revolutionary product. Customers seemed to agree, and three days after the iPhone 4s launched, Apple had sold four million devices, at the time making it the fastest-selling iPhone ever.
Fast forward seven years, and Siri is a problem. It’s arguably the main reason that Apple’s latest product launch—a $349 smart speaker called HomePod—has underperformed, based on early estimates from analysts. Although the speaker won plaudits for its sleek look and audio quality, review after review trashed the Siri functionality with words like “dopey, ”“annoying” and “embarrassingly inadequate.”