The reviews are in, at least the ones that count. Over 3 million consumers voted with their wallet in the first few days after the latest version of the iPad was released. There’s been the usual mix of reviews praising it as perfection, and others saying it’s not much more than a cash grab. However, what I was both surprised by – and impressed with – was the lack of Siri (Apple’s digital assistant on the iPhone) and Facetime (Apple’s version of Skype) over 4g networks.
Now since you probably already know that I’m a huge tech head, you may be wondering why I was impressed that something was intentionally left out (although maybe not if you recall my “missing list” post a while back) – especially since both are really software issues? 4g is certainly fast enough for Facetime to work well, and Siri would certainly run well on a device that is every bit as powerful as the iPhone 4s. So why did Apple choose not to include them?
Neither met Apple’s own internal minimum standards for delivering a reliable customer experience that they would be proud of. Let me explain. (If you aren’t familiar with Siri, please watch this first)
Siri records sound from your device, and then sends that sound over the internet to Apple servers who interpret the sound and send back a response. This means that on the Wi-Fi only (very popular) versions of the iPad customers would have heard a reply like “Sorry, I can’t help you with that right now” anytime they weren’t on a Wi-Fi network. Imagine if they saw an advertisement of an iPad running Siri and theirs often ”didn’t work” for a reason they likely do not understand – how frustrating! This isn’t an issue with an iPhone because except in airplane mode (or if the user is techy enough to navigate multiple menus to turn off cellular data) it is always connected via 3g to process the data and give Siri its witty reply to your request.
Similar story with Facetime. 4g coverage isn’t wide spread enough to reliable offer a seamless experience, and a customer’s data plan could be eaten up real fast during a Facetime call causing a larger than expected data bill and – again – an even more negative (and expensive) experience.
This is all layered on the idea that Apple products are “just supposed to work.” A perceived failure rate (remember – the software isn’t failing) of even 15% on these two singular experiences could have harmed Apple’s brand. They weren’t willing to risk it, and I applaud them for it.
Some people say Apple thinks that the people who buy their products are too stupid and that is why they make decisions to “protect people from themselves.” I think they have too much respect for their reputation, the product they deliver, and their customers to offer an unreliable experience.
What do you think? Should they have included them? Is it brave or stupid to make a decision like that? Why?