Siri vs Siri: What Apple’s AI can and can’t do on every Apple device

Hey Siri, what gives?

siri apple watch
Michael Simon/IDG

All forms of Siri are not created equal. While Apple’s AI assistant is available on no less than six different devices—iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Macs, and now, HomePod—its capabilities aren’t the same on each. Rather than give Siri the same brain everywhere, Apple has tailored Siri’s smarts to the device you’re using, so the answers you get will be different depending on what device you’re using—and in some cases there are surprising and frustrating limitations. I tested Siri across the Apple's whole family of devices with scads of queries. Here are some topline takeaways on what I found:

  1. The iPhone and iPad are the kings of Siri. Every request I made was answered best by these two devices, and the responses always matched up (though the language often differed).
  2. The Apple Watch is the slowest to respond. Often times it would give me an I’ll tap you when I’m ready message before offering up an answer several seconds later, even when connected to Wi-Fi and tethered to an iPhone.
  3. The Mac is the worst Siri device. While it's fine for general knowledge questions, It can't set timers or alarms, can't control smart devices through HomeKit, and can't add songs to a playlist. Plus there's no (official) Hey Siri functionality. 
  4. HomePod is by far the best at listening and responding, and it's clear that Apple wants this to eventually be the high-water mark for Siri.
  5. Siri on Apple TV is woefully underrepresented. It's missing key Siri components, including Hey Siri summoning and audible responses. And its answering left much to be desired, even when asking about movies.
  6. Siri really needs a personality boost. Apple has added some fun interjections when asking questions and its responses are very natural, but it doesn't play games, read stories, or tell jokes nearly as well as Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

So without further ado, here's everything I asked Siri, along with the responses I got, snark and all:

Siri vs. Siri: Basic conversions

While most of Apple’s devices were able to correctly answer the simple conversion questions posed here, Apple TV could not. In fact, without a voice and “Hey Siri” abilities, Siri on Apple TV is pretty much useless in the general knowledge department.

siri conversions IDG

How many quarts in a gallon?

iPhone: It’s four quarts.
iPad: It’s four quarts.
Apple Watch: It’s four quarts.
Apple TV: I’m sorry, I can’t do that here.
HomePod: One gallon is four quarts.
Mac: It’s four quarts.

How much is $100 dollars in euros?

iPhone: It’s 81 euros and 5 cents.
iPad: It’s 81 euros and 5 cents.
Apple Watch: It’s 81 euros and 5 cents.
Apple TV: I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that.
HomePod: $100 is 81 euros and 5 cents according to Yahoo Finance.
Mac: It’s 81 euros and 5 cents.

How many kilometers are in a mile?

iPhone: One mile converts to 1.61 kilometers.
iPad: One mile converts to 1.61 kilometers
Apple Watch: It’s 1.61 kilometers.
Apple TV: I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that here.
HomePod: One mile is 1.61 kilometers.
Mac: One mile converts to 1.61 kilometers.

How many feet in a yard?

iPhone: It’s three feet.
iPad: It’s three feet.
Apple Watch: Three feet.
Apple TV: Sorry, I can’t help you with that here.
HomePod: One yard is three feet.
Mac: Three feet.

How many ounces in a teaspoon?

iPhone: It’s 0.17 fluid ounces.
iPad: It’s 0.17 fluid ounces.
Apple Watch: It’s 0.17 fluid ounces.
Apple TV: I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that here.
HomePod: One teaspoon is 0.17 fluid ounces.
Mac: 0.17 fluid ounces.

Siri vs. Siri: News and information

Once again, Apple TV brought up the rear here, but it wasn’t a total wipeout. While it surprisingly didn’t know who the president was, it did well with sports questions and was able to display the time in another city. However, when it came to questions that Siri couldn’t audibly answer, like naming the planets in the solar system, only the iPhone and iPad were able to at least display relevant information. Seems like a missed opportunity for tvOS. And the Mac's lack of knowledge about the Olympics is downright confounding.

siri sports time IDG

Who is the president?

iPhone: The answer I found is Donald Trump.
iPad: The answer I found is Donald Trump.
Apple Watch: The answer I found is Donald Trump.
Apple TV: Sorry, I can’t search for that here.
HomePod: According to Wikipedia, it’s Donald Trump.
Mac: The answer I found is Donald Trump.

Who won the Super Bowl last year?

iPhone: The Patriots won a close game in overtime against the Falcons in the Super Bowl on February 5, 2017. The final score was 34-28.
iPad: The Patriots snuck past the Falcons in overtime in the Super Bowl on February 5, 2017. The final score was 34-28.
Apple Watch: The Patriots won a close game in overtime against the Falcons in the Super Bowl on February 5, 2017. The final score was 34-28.
Apple TV: The Patriots won a close game in overtime against the Falcons in the Super Bowl on February 5, 2017. The final score was 34-28.
HomePod: The Patriots snuck past the Falcons in overtime in the Super Bowl on February 5, 2017. The final score was 34-28.
Mac: The Patriots snuck past the Falcons in overtime in the Super Bowl on February 5, 2017. The final score was 34-28.

Who has the best record in the NBA this season?

iPhone: The Rockets are in first place in the NBA.
iPad: So far, the Rockets are in first place in the NBA with a record of 44 and 13.
Apple Watch: The Rockets are in first place in the NBA.
Apple TV: So far, the Rockets are in first place in the NBA with a record of 44-13.
HomePod: The Rockets are in first place in the NBA.
Mac: The Rockets are in first place in the NBA with a record of 44 and 13. They must be pretty good.

siri more questions IDG

What planets are in our solar system?

iPhone: Here’s what I found on the web for ‘What planets are in our solar system.’
iPad: Here’s what I found on the web for ‘What planets are in our solar system.’
Apple Watch: I can search for ‘What planets are in our solar system’ on your iPhone.
Apple TV: Sorry, I can’t search for that here.
HomePod: I can’t get the answer to that on HomePod.
Mac: OK, I found this on the web for ‘What planets are in our solar system’

What time is it in Melbourne (asked at 9:27 a.m. EST)?

Note: My original question was, “What time is it in Pyeongchang, South Korea?” but while every device correctly understood my question, they all retrieved the time in Chuncheon, South Korea, rather than Pyeongchang.
iPhone: The time in Melbourne, Australia, is 1:27 am.
iPad: In Melbourne, Australia, it is 1:27 am.
Apple Watch: In Melbourne, Australia, it is 1:27 am.
Apple TV: (Displays the time in Melbourne, Australia.)
HomePod: In Melbourne, Australia, it is 1:27 am.
Mac: In Melbourne, Australia, it is 1:27 am.

What country has won the most gold medals at the Winter Olympics?

iPhone: Norway leads the Winter Olympics medal count with 13 gold medals.
iPad: Norway leads the Winter Olympics medal count with 13 gold medals.
Apple Watch: Norway leads the Winter Olympics medal count with 13 gold medals.
Apple TV: Norway leads the Winter Olympics medal count with 13 gold medals.
HomePod: Norway leads the Winter Olympics medal count with 13 gold medals.
Mac: Here’s what I found on the web for ‘What country has won the most gold medals in the winter Olympics.’

What’s in the news?

iPhone: Here’s some news (displays a list of Apple News headlines).
iPad: Here’s some news (displays a list of Apple News headlines).
Apple Watch: I can search for ‘What’s in the news’ on your iPhone.
Apple TV: I’m sorry, I can’t do that here.
HomePod: Here’s the latest news from The Washington Post. You can also tell me to switch to NPR, Fox News, or CNN.
Mac: Here’s some news (displays a list of Apple News headlines).

Siri vs. Siri: Music

Obviously, HomePod excelled with music controls and questions, but the other devices weren’t far behind. Apple Watch and Mac aren’t able to add songs to playlists (and none are able to delete them), but they all properly identified songs that were playing, save one: Apple Watch repeatedly thought Lorde’s ‘Team’ was ‘Buzzcut Season.’ And when asking to play something different than the song that was currently playing, all of the devices deferred to radio stations rather than choosing a song from my library at random, while Siri on Apple Watch started playing music on my iPhone.

siri music IDG

Add this song to my Siri Test playlist.

iPhone: OK, I added Team by Lorde to your Siri Test playlist.
iPad: OK, I added Team by Lorde to your Siri Test playlist.
Apple Watch: Sorry Michael, I wasn’t able to add ‘Buzzcut Season’ to your Siri Test playlist.
Apple TV: OK, I added Team by Lorde to your Siri Test playlist.
HomePod: OK, I added Team by Lorde to your Siri Test playlist.
Mac: Sorry, Michael, I can’t add music to your playlists on this device.

I like this song.

iPhone: OK, got it.
iPad: OK, got it.
Apple Watch: OK, got it.
Apple TV: OK, got it.
HomePod: OK, got it.
Mac: OK, got it.

Who sings this song?

iPhone: This is Lorde, with the track ‘Team.’
iPad: This is Lorde, with the track ‘Team.’
Apple TV: This is Lorde. This track is called ‘Team.’
Apple Watch: This is Lorde, with the track ‘Buzzcut Season.’
HomePod: This is Lorde with the track ‘Team.’
Mac: This is Lorde. This track is called ‘Team.’

What album is this from?

iPhone: You’re listening to the album ‘Pure Heroine’ by Lorde.
iPad: This is the album ‘Pure Heroine’ by Lorde.
Apple Watch: This album is ‘Pure Heroine’ by Lorde.
Apple TV: Currently playing: the album ‘Pure Heroine’ by Lorde.
HomePod: This album is ‘Pure Heroine’ by Lorde.
Mac: Currently playing: the album ‘Pure Heroine’ by Lorde.

Play my Siri Test playlist.

iPhone: Playlist ‘Siri Test’ now playing.
iPad: Playlist ‘Siri Test’ now playing.
Apple Watch: (starts playing)
Apple TV: Playlist ‘Siri Test’ now playing.
HomePod: Playlist ‘Siri Test’ now playing.
Mac: (starts playing)

Play something different

iPhone: OK, here’s Donora radio.
iPad: OK, here’s Natalie Merchant radio.
Apple Watch: (keeps playing same song, but starts playing a different song on iPhone)
Apple TV: OK, here’s U2 radio.
HomePod: Sure, switching to the Magnetic Fields radio.
Mac: OK... (but doesn’t change song)

What song is this?

Note: HomePod would only identify a song playing on another device when specifically asked, ‘Shazam this.’
iPhone: I believe this is ‘With or Without You’ by U2.
iPad: This sounds like ‘With or Without You’ by U2.
Apple Watch: I can’t help you identify this song on your iPhone.
HomePod: I believe this is ‘With or Without You’ by U2.
Apple TV: Sorry, I can’t recognize music on your Apple TV.
Mac: Sounds like ‘With or Without You’ by U2... but please don’t ask me to sing it.

Siri vs. Siri: Movies

I expected video controls and movie-based queries to be Apple TV’s area of expertise, but other than the super-cool “What did they just say” command that rewinds 30 seconds, it wasn’t really the movie authority it seems to be. In fact, it straight up didn’t know anything about the week’s hottest release, Black Panther.

siri apple tv black panther director IDG

This may be the director of a Black Panther movie, but not the Black Panther movie.

Who stars in Black Panther?

iPhone: Black Panther features Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o and others.
iPad: Black Panther features Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o and others.
Apple Watch: Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o.
Apple TV: I found nine for you to choose from.
HomePod: Black Panther features Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o and others.
Mac: Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o.

Who directed Black Panther?

iPhone: Black Panther was directed by Ryan Coogler.
iPad: Black Panther was directed by Ryan Coogler.
Apple Watch: (displays Ryan Coogler’s name, no voice)
Apple TV: Black Panther was directed by Mark Brooks.
HomePod: Black Panther was directed by Ryan Coogler.
Mac: Black Panther was directed by Ryan Coogler.

Show me comedies with Bill Murray.

iPhone: Here are some comedy selections with Bill Murray.
iPad: Here are some comedy picks with Bill Murray.
Apple Watch: Here are some comedy movies starring Bill Murray.
Apple TV: Here are some comedy picks starring Bill Murray.
HomePod: Sorry, I couldn’t find anything like that.
Mac: Here are some comedy movies starring Bill Murray.

What did they just say (while watching a movie)?

iPhone: I’m sorry, I can’t do that for you.
iPad: I’m sorry, I can’t do that for you.
Apple Watch: N/A
Apple TV: (rewinds 30 seconds)
HomePod: N/A
Mac: That’s beyond my abilities at the moment.

Fast forward 10 minutes (while watching a movie).

iPhone: (fast forwards 10 minutes)
iPad: (fast forwards 10 minutes)
Apple Watch: N/A
Apple TV: (fast forwards 10 minutes)
HomePod: N/A
Mac: Fast forwarding 10 minutes.

Siri vs. Siri: Smart home

Smart home controls is pretty even across all of Apple’s devices, though you obviously need to have things already set up in the Home app. And you can’t control anything with Siri on the Mac yet.

siri smart home IDG

Turn on the bedroom lights.

iPhone: OK, the lights are on.
iPad: OK, the lights are on.
Apple Watch: Coming right up.
Apple TV: OK, the Hue Color Lamp is on.
HomePod: All set.
Mac: Sorry, I can’t help you with HomeKit here.

Turn the bedroom lights blue.

iPhone: OK turning things blue.
iPad: OK, blue.
Apple Watch: You got it. Coming right up.
Apple TV: Blue, coming right up!
HomePod: Done.
Mac: Sorry, I can’t help you with HomeKit here.

Siri vs. Siri: Phone tasks

Once again, Apple TV was a big dud when it came to asking Siri to do common phone tasks, but Apple Watch’s inability to take notes is a glaring omission, as is calendars on HomePod. And why exactly can’t I set a timer or alarm with Siri on the Mac?

siri phone tasks IDG

Take a note.

iPhone: What do you want it to say?
iPad: What do you want it to say?
Apple Watch: I can help you with notes on your iPhone.
Apple TV: Sorry, I can’t help with that.
HomePod: What do you want it to say?
Mac: OK, I can take that note for you. Just tell me what you want it to say.

Set an alarm for 6 p.m.

iPhone: The alarm’s set for 6 PM.
iPad: OK, I set an alarm for 6 PM.
Apple Watch: Done.
Apple TV: Sorry, I can’t help you with Alarms here.
HomePod: OK, I set an alarm for 6 PM.
Mac: I can’t set an alarm here. Would you like a reminder instead?

Set a timer for 5 minutes.

iPhone: Your timer is set for 5 minutes.
iPad: Done. I love a good countdown.
Apple Watch: 5 minutes and counting.
Apple TV: Sorry, I can’t help you with Timers here.
HomePod: Five minutes and counting.
Mac: I can’t set a timer here. How about a reminder instead?

What’s my next appointment?

iPhone: OK, here’s your appointment.
iPad: OK, here’s your appointment.
Apple Watch: (Displays next appointment)
Apple TV: Sorry, I can’t help you with your calendar here.
HomePod: I can’t access your calendar here. Sorry about that.
Mac: OK, here’s your appointment.

Siri vs. Siri: Miscellaneous

Siri on a whole greatly lags Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant when it comes to doing personality-based things like telling jokes and playing games, but I tried anyway. Of note, HomePod remained completely silent when asked to play a game, never confirming or denying whether it could do it. (Insert thinking face emoji here.)

siri games IDG

Tell me a joke

iPhone: If I told you a joke in my language, I’d have to explain it.
iPad: The past, present, and future walk into a bar. It was tense.
Apple Watch: How many Apple Watches does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two: one to screw it in and another to watch. Get it? Watch! Ha ha!
Apple TV: I would, but I’d wish there was a laugh track.
HomePod: If I told you a joke in my language, I’d have to explain it.
Mac: The past, present, and future walk into a bar. It was tense.

Let’s play a game

iPhone: That may be beyond my abilities at the moment.
iPad: That may by beyond my abilities at the moment.
Apple Watch: To find apps for your Apple Watch, go to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and tap on the App Store at the bottom of the screen.
Apple TV: Sorry, but I can’t help you with that here.
HomePod: (silence, despite repeated requests)
Mac: That may be beyond my abilities at the moment.

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