Rubin: People Communicate through their Phones, not with them


When Apple unveiled their latest update to the iPhone, their voice-activated personal assistant Siri took center stage. Many hoped (and some expected) that Google would reveal an equally impressive tool alongside the announcement of Ice Cream Sandwich and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This was not the case. Andy Rubin addressed the concept while speaking at the AsiaD conference, and his stance was simple. “Your phone is a tool for communicating,” he said, “you shouldn’t be communicating with the phone you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone.”

The notion strikes at the core of how we use smartphones today. Manufacturers and software developers are paying increasingly less attention to the actual communication elements of smartphones and focusing rather on positioning them as alternatives to computers — or in the case of Siri, real human interactions. Rubin is also quick to point out that Apple was not the first to attempt such a technology, but in typical fashion they were first to make the concept appealing to the masses.

[via Gizmodo]


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  1. A really lame answer, but he has got to come up with something negative to say about it, and that’s a difficult task. By the way, shouldn’t folks be communicating with someone on the other end of the phone rather than playing with widgets on their home screen?

    1. Lol playing with Widgets you mean able to customize their phone because they can

    2. I communicate with people through a twitter widget.

    3. Very lame answer that relies on things staying the same.

    4. I don’t have to ask some slut how the NASDAQ is doing, when I can just turn my screen on, and I have a live ticker right there on the homescreen.

    5. Yes, they should :) But we are still far from perfection.

  2. Each CEO is going to say something negative about the competition. IT is all about sales and numbers. The reality is #2 + #3 always talk about #1. However, #2 is very close on the heels of #1 and they need to come up with a game changing item instead of selling a gimmick(Siri), just like widgets.

    1. Apple doesn’t make game changing products. They just sell you the same thing over and over but make it seem cool.

  3. Yeah I don’t like this answer either.

    Siri is “cool” but definitely a “novelty” kind of like face unlock. I think that if Apple and Google are going to trade barbs about what the other does then you should probably have more than face unlock to throw back.

    I’ve been perfectly happy with the google voice input integration so far. Do I wish they’d add more commands? Yes. Will they? Definitely.

  4. No, he makes sense; i downloaded one of those personal assistant apps, and that’s exactly what it is – a substitute for a real human. It got in the way – it’s cute and humorous, but I found myself saying, “why am i talking to this animated lady?”

  5. Voice commands are overrated, here’s typically what happens.

    1. Use voice commands for the first time.
    2. Show off the cool feature to your friends.
    3. Look stupid in public, by talking to your phone.
    4. Never use them again.

    1. I have 3 iPhone 4s users in my workplace and not a one of them use Siri for any purpose but to show off that it works. It takes longer to open an app through Siri than it does to just go to the app. Making phone calls is a bit more seamless. Everything else, pointless. That’s not to say that Siri’s technology isn’t awesome but 2011 is not the year that people will be walking around talking to their phones instead of poking at them to do things. 2012 isnt either….and neither is 2013.

      1. Ah, but 2014… now THAT is the year!

      2. I use Siri to perform basic functions like make notes, send texts and a lot of speech to text functions.

        Also, I use Siri to search for things. I hate typing, especially on a touchscreen. So I am finding Siri very useful.

        I also love using her to access my music and have her find and play my playlists and even use her to play certain types of music. When I ask Siri to play me some Rock music, she started playing my Def Leppard collection. How awesome is that?

        That’s just me though. I’m unique just like everyone else… ;0)

        1. Voice Actions by Google have been doing this for over a yer now. Hey fapples (not you) educate yourselves on who created really great voice software first and who bought a company who made a nice app as a ‘reaction’ and baked it in iOS5

          …and if you can’t think for yourselves (not you again) just ask Siri!

    2. Except that they’re hella useful when driving. I use voice recognition all the time when I’m in the car.

    3. In android, I find it useful for navigation commands and sometimes googleing. I find that there is a exponential relationship between the number of beers I’ve had and the chances I’d use it in public.

  6. Let me just get this out of the way. I am a HUGE Android fan, and I have no use for Apple products. But Siri is the first feature I have ever been jealous of in an Apple product. I think this is just Andy’s way of saying “crap, we didn’t think of it first, so now we have to make it sound like it’s useless”

    1. But they did think of it first, voice actions are capable of almost everything Siri can do, sending text messages e-mails etc. for other stuff like asking it the weather, that’s just something you would never have to do on an Android phone. If I’m thinking, “hmmmm I wonder if it’s chilly outside” I just turn on my phone, flick acrros one screen to my weather widget and there it is. With Siri this would be much slower, I turn on my phone, activate Siri, ask “Is it cold out”, Siri sends this off to the main frame, comes back that I want to know what the weather is, LOADS my weather app, and then I can do the same thing I’d done 30 seconds earlier by looking at the forecast on the app. Natural language searches are a cool novelty feature, but they don’t have much real world application, and are much more prone to errors than specifically telling your phone what to do. I really hope Google doesn’t fall for the hype and implement this wasted feature.

      1. Your post is error prone. Starting with this 30 seconds you pulled out of thin air.

        Natural language searches are a cool novelty feature, but they don’t have much real world application

        This doesn’t even make sense. Basically what you just said was, search using natural language has no real world application. In other words, in your view, Google should be out of business by now. Last time I checked, most people search google by asking questions using natural language.

        1. Really you load up Google and type in “Will I need an umbrella today” if you want to find out what the weather is or “What car has the largest acceleration” for whatever you’re into. This stuff doesn’t work effectively in Google because Google DOESN’T use a natural language engine, for more information on why you are wrong and why you’re doing your searches wrong go to

      2. Good example about the weather – I always thought that was a bit of a waste of time. Voice recognition is definitely the wave of the future, but the future is not now. Siri is prepping the masses on what to expect advance voice intergration can provide. It’s not seamless or quick yet. It will get better, just like Google’s Voice Actions, but for now, it’s rudimentary. I think for execs to talk down Siri is a waste of time.

        Siri needs to be implemented better. I see it being more like the Computer on the Enterprise from Star Trek. You would be able to activate Siri by calling it Siri, or whatever you designate it, and then issue commands, WITHOUT touching anything. So, with it sleep, I should be able to hold it close to my mouth, or with a bluetooth on, and say, “Jessica, what’s the update on the mudslides in California?” and “Jessica” (Siri) will say, “Let me look that up.” (a few seconds elapse) “I found several articles with updates given in the last article about that. One is from the New York Times, one is from USA Today. Do you want more choices?” and I would respond, “No, that’s fine. Read the New York Times article to me.” and within a few seconds again, it READS the article to me.

        THAT’S the future that people aren’t realizing when detractors say Siri is a waste, or voice actions in general.

        1. This, this is what I would call a revolutionary app, and I would call it one whether apple or google made it, but to claim apple’s siri is anything close is just crazy right now.
          And I don’t think people mean its a waste of time to develop it, more that its a waste of time to put in the ability to ask the weather when you have a weather app that takes less time to get to into the iphone and then call it revolutionary.

      3. Splitting hairs here Alex. Apple did think of it first, that’s why it’s on their phone and nobody elses. More accurately they’re first to take the technology mainstream. This isn’t “voice recognition” it’s the first step towards humans using AI. It’s intuitive and it learns. On an Android phone you can’t make and change an appointment on your calendar and tell it to remind you in 17 minutes to take the turkey out of the oven without touching the phone (yet). Sadly Andy Rubin is wrong, I hardly ever “talk” with people on my phone anymore but I use the tools quite often and I wouldn’t mind verbally communicating with my Android. One day on the way home from work you’ll be able to set the DVR to record a show without using your hands and it’ll likely be the phone that’s the catalyst.

        1. Voice search on Android CAN 1) send emails, 2) send texts, 3) immediately dial a business by saying “call Mcdonalds” etc, 4) display current weather, etc

          Most the basic features were there way before siri…one of the few that is lacking is “remind me on” and you can even get that from an App in the market.

          Siri is not ‘revolutionary’.

          1. I never said anything about all the things you listed, you’re correct, you can do many tasks with your voice on different platforms, but there’s a core difference between AI and “Voice recognition”, in a couple years phones won’t listen for keywords, they be able to understand natural language. The revolution is the institution of it on a phone, just like the first iPhone revolutionized touchscreen interaction on a phone. Again, Siri is not “voice recognition” let’s be clear with that, although it functions SIMILARLY, it’s quite different. One learns, the other does not.

          2. Your key comment here is “in a couple of years”. Siri isn’t doing anything special than any other voice app out there is doing. It’s simply on an Apple device so of course the iFans are going to “ohhh & ahhh” over it because their pissed the 4S was less than what they expected it to be.

          3. I can’t understand half of the people in my town speaking “english” how well do you think a phone is eventually going to be able to do?

        2. “I hardly ever “talk” with people on my phone anymore ” And that is simply pathetic.

        3. Everyone uses their phone differently. “Speaktoit” is exactly like Siri, so this type of program is nothing new. Apple (like they always do) merely put it on their phone “for you”, as opposed to Android phones having the option of installing the app themselves. I used Speaktoit for all of two days until the novelty wore off. As others have noted, it’s just as easy to press a button and get instant results, than it is to speak to your phone and wait for a response. Unlike you, I “talk” ON my phone more than I email or text people. It’s more personal and I enjoy interacting with “people” as opposed to a device. You should try it sometime.

    2. There are already several apps that do most or all of what Siri will do (Vlingo, Speaktoit, Iris, etc. . .). One of the things that first attracted me to Android was that making an app like that would be easier that any other system and it would be possible to link into new services that had not yet been invented. Since the OS was designed to do this, even before the voice technology was there, I am inclined to believe it was a bias against voice, like Andy Rubin said.

      P.S. I am jealous of the quality of the voice dialer that iPhone’s have. It is much better than Android’s.

  7. Agreed b2l

  8. I think Andy is wrong about this one. Smartphones are personal assistants, no matter how you look at it… hence the old name of PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). No reason NOT to offer consumers the option to have it, instead of saying your opinion is that it shouldn’t be on phones.

  9. it is actually useful, searching for youtube has never been easier, you can literally just tell it to search the specific address, and it will search the address on gps
    Texting is 95% accurate, useful when driving..

    Besides those 3 searches, everything else is pretty useless and just a button away. Like who the hell asks about weather and wait 5 second to load, when theres a damn weather app right in front of your face lol

    1. honestly, 5% is just too much. Fuck, it can’t even recognize all the streets in my city. I trired it at a store and was like fuck, who ever named these streets.

      1. this is why after awhile they just give up and use numbers, but then they throw you for a loop with with 64th street and 64th place…

    2. Android has Voice actions? There goes apple again, reinventing the wheel and claiming they did it first.

  10. If I want similar features I will just use Vlingo.

    1. and i like vlingo very much thank you..iphone users are a tad lazy anyway.

  11. My phone and I communicate all the time. It tells me to burn things.

  12. Andy is dead wrong on this one. It is the online links that matter. Being able to tell the Siri system to find a flight to LA on Aug 3 in the afternoon will actually get you results and it can book the flight you choose. This is real value. Videos of morons “playing with it” don’t show the actual potential. Rubin doesn’t need to downplay when we all know they will release the exact same thing (but better) on my Nexus by March.

    1. They already have it on your phone? Voice actions does the same thing.
      Edit: just realized it might not be able to book n find the flight that day, but it can still do the google search, and they don’t need to release a new app, all they need to do is a slight update to voice actions for it to be completely on par with siri.

  13. How is telling Siri to “send a message to my wife saying ‘I’m on my way I love you’ ” not communicating ThrougH the phone? Does this guy know you can send messages to others? “Your phone is a tool for communicating,” he said, “you shouldn’t be communicating with the phone you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone.”??

  14. Until voice recognition is more like Jarvis from Iron Man, I will not be using it.

  15. And Voice actions do this, “Text Wifey I’m on my way I love you ” and your message in on the way. Andy clearly supports his type of interactions, what he’s saying is he doesn’t want to talk to his phone like it’s a person. What’s next having to tell your iPhone that it’s still beautiful and you love it very much before you can search the internet.

    1. Yeah. I’ve been reading the Mac sites, and apparently, that’s what they all want.

  16. Unfortunately Google is wrong on this one. He is trying to convince us that we shouldn’t be communication “with” the phone because google’s speech technology is about 20 years behind. Instead of adopting the latest technology, they are trying to use their influence to brain wash people about not communicating with the phone. As much as I like android, I’m begining to hate google more than apple as a company. I think they are taking over as the #1 evil empire.

    1. Oh, and let’s not forget that smart phones these days holds your calendar, your contacts, your entire life…..if you don’t communicate with it, how do you keep your life in order?

      1. You are a dope, take Google away from any smart phone and what do you have, nothing.Google is smart phone, they are what keeps these communication devices together. Without Google you loose the core of the smart phone technology. I have had Vlingo, which IMO is better then Siri, Haven’t used it in 6 months. Wast of time. Snap out of it, Quit being told what is right or wrong and use your head. He is absolutely right. Oh wait, do I detect a Apple trole on this forum, I think I do. Apple wasted all those millions on technology that has been around forever and no one wants it.

        1. I bet you haven’t even used Siri yet.

          1. He hasn’t….he just can’t hide his Apple hatred. Anyone who has tried both Siri and Vlingo (I have) and says that Vlingo is better is either in denial, a hater or incurably ignorant. In his case, I’m willing to bet it is all of the above…

            4 million phones sold (not “shipped” or “activated”) in 3 days….yeah you’re right, NOBODY wants it

          2. Google has had voice actions in Android for quite some time. That is fact. Androids voice actions can also do pretty much everything, if not more then siri can. That is also fact. Now why is apples siri better then voice actions? For you its simply because apple made it and called it revolutionary. But for the rest of us its not really.
            And now I am done feeding the trolls.

  17. The only way this feature is cool, is if we could activate it with a keyword. But that means it would be ‘listening’ constantly and draining battery life. “Computer, what’s the weather like today?” In my dreams.

  18. Andy is dead wrong here and I’m hoping that something similar will come out on the Android Market very soon. I drive a whole lot and I wan’t to be able to do certain things without taking my eyes from the road. Today I can tell my telephone to “Navigate to [street]”. This is not enough. I want to be able to tell my phone to find the “Nearest fast food restaurant with a rating above 3 stars”. When the phone returns with the result, and I do not mind if I have to wait a few secs, I want to be able to tell my phone to “Navigate there” to make the phone take me to named place.
    I also want to be able to ask my phone “What hotell is closest to [place]”. When the answer is returned I want to be able to ask “How much is a room there” and then “Nah, to expensive, find cheaper hotell neraby”. I want the smart in smartphone to come in handy. I want it to be able to do some logical “reasoning”.

    When this happens, I’ll be impressed. Until then I’ll just sit here and be pissed off that the phone doesn’t even understand Swedish wich means I can’t tell it to navigate to shit or call anyone because it doesn’t understand the names of things!! GAH!!

    1. but you can do most if not all of that without talking to your phone, you know by using the apps you have. Talking to the phone is not neccessarily easier (or faster) than clicking on the screen. This obsession with talking is short lived (imo), it is just as fast and easy to just use your phone and it’s apps

      1. As I said, I’m in the car a lot. Often, the only time I have to do these things is while driving.

    2. Maybe you should search the Market first. There are ALREADY apps there that do what Siri does.

  19. Android’s voice search, voice to text and voice actions do 95% of what Siri does without the annoying lip!

    Google listens and doesn’t talk back, just like it should be!

    Ask Siri: “Please goto
    Siri “did you mean go to”
    Respond to Siri “No, I said goto PHANDROID.COM!!!”
    Siri “I’m sorry could you repeat the question?”
    Yell at Siri “O..M….G…. GOTO W W W . P H A N D R O I D E F F I N D O T C O M AND NOW YOU STUPID XXXXX!!!”
    Siri “I am sending you to until you can learn to talk civil to me”

    Yep, much better than google voice actions!

  20. I love voice commands… especially for a quick text while driving or pulling up a map of a location or navigation directions.. It works quite well but like others have mentioned I wouldn’t really want to have a conversation with my phone..

  21. They weren’t “first to make the concept appealing to the masses”, they were first to dupe their customers that it was new technology that nobody had done before. Still… “in typical fashion”.

  22. (sorry for double post but…) Andy Rubin is just DEAD WRONG! I rarely “talk” with people on my phone anymore but I use the tools quite often and hands-free navigation would be a bonus at times. One day on the way home from work you’ll be able to set the DVR to record a show and preheat the oven to 350 without using your hands and it’ll likely be the phone that’s the catalyst.

    1. He said people should use their phone to communicate with other people, not to talk to it, by which he means simply having a conversation with it. He is not referring to just using the voice dial apk, but the broad spectrum of which you can communicate with people using your phone, twitter, facebook, phone, e-mail, etc. Granted, I don’t see the point of the comment being that google has had voice recognition for quite some time, it just doesn’t have, as someone stated above, the ability to have AI response as of yet, as some apps do in the market.. Now, being that you have talked about being able to set your oven while driving home, you are absolutely correct, being that google’s accessory program is being released, google will soon implement these things using similar software that apple has, but it’ll be far more far reaching than apple can do, being that android accessory is already in the mix.

  23. We can argue back and forth about whether voice recognition is that useful or if we even use it in public or who had it first, but Andy’s comments startled me for a deeper reason:

    He should surely realize that a phone is no longer primarily for communicating with other people. Our phones are now internet devices, music players, calendars, libraries and books, etc. The list goes on and on. It’s ridiculous for him to say otherwise. I sense some sour grapes about Siri.

    1. Exactly…..

  24. A very good point is made here. I mean, i have to commend Apple on Siri, but realistically we aren’t at a point to have a real use for it. Its more gimmick then anything. I could definitely open up phone app and pull up name, number, and call it quicker than the voice assistant could. If anything its more useful when it comes to hands free driving, but thats about it. I’ve been playing around with Speaktoit, an android app that does everything, if not more than siri, and it really is amazing. but after a couple of hours of playing its not fully useful. At least not at this point in technology.

  25. if google had added glados to their phones, they’d have all my money. ALL OF IT.

  26. Siri will change the world just like facetime (who the hell names this crap) did.

    1. Facetime changed the world? Because I know tons of people with Iphones and a majority of them either dont even know they have facetime, or just dont care.

  27. Lots of Apple trolls on here lately

  28. Suddenly, a lot of Android fanboys forgot Google was researching on a voice controlled assistant.

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