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You’re Embarrassed to Use Siri In Public, Aren’t You?

June 6, 2016, 4:29 PM UTC
Apple Poised to Sell 10 Million IPhones in Record Debut
A customer tries the Siri voice assistant function on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5 at a Telstra Corp. store on George Street in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Apple Inc. is poised for a record iPhone 5 debut and may not be able to keep up with demand as customers line up from Sydney to New York to pick up the latest model of its top-selling product. The device hits stores in eight countries today at 8 a.m. local time, giving customers in Australia the first chance to buy the device. Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Ian Waldie—Bloomberg via Getty Images

You might have used Apple’s virtual personal assistant Siri, but there’s a good chance you’re not doing so in public.

According to a study published recently by Creative Strategies, a whopping 98% of Apple iPhone owners across the U.S. have used Siri at least once, and 70% of the study’s 500 respondents use it sometimes. However, just 3% of those iPhone owners admit to using Siri in public, for fear of the discomfort they feel talking to a smartphone in front of others.

“With public usage as low as 3% for iPhone users, it seems users are still uncomfortable talking to their devices,” the research firm said in a statement. “Even more fascinating is this happens in the U.S. where consumers are accustomed to talking loudly on phones in public.”

Apple’s (AAPL) Siri is a cloud-based virtual assistant that allows users to ask it a wide range of questions, including what the score on a game is or to set up appointments for an upcoming event. The service is similar to competing virtual assistants, like Microsoft’s (MSFT) Cortana and OK Google (GOOGL), which also deliver voice-guided help.

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However, Siri, like other virtual assistants, has been panned in the past for being inaccurate or not offering enough features. Apple quietly updates Siri from the cloud to improve its accuracy and ability to respond to more queries, and at the Worldwide Developers Conference next week, will likely announce some new Siri features baked into its upcoming iOS 10. Rumors abound that Siri might also find its way to Apple’s next OS X desktop operating system, believed to be codenamed Fuji.

Despite launching in 2011, Apple has kept much of how users are employing Siri close to the vest. The Creative Strategies study, therefore, sheds a bit more light on how users are employing virtual assistants, to what degree, and why.

The study found that users are most likely to use Siri and other voice assistants in the car, followed by the home. Just 1.3% of respondents say they use virtual assistants at work.

Oddly, while Siri has been around for several years, it’s least likely to be used in public out of all voice assistants, according to Creative Strategies. In fact, 6% of respondents—double Siri’s usage—use any voice assistant in public. A surprisingly large proportion of Android users, 12%, are willing to use OK Google in public. Creative Strategies attributed the major difference to the higher number of Android users who previously used iDEN, a technology that allowed them to talk into their phones in a walkie-talkie-like way.

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So, the self-consciousness appears to be more of a Siri problem than anything else. But looking ahead, Creative Strategies believes that iPhone owners will start to feel better about talking to their handsets.

“As wearables become more pervasive—and I am not thinking here about just smartwatches but earbuds, clothing and so on—the ability to hear and carry sound will also improve,” Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said in a statement. “This coupled with AI’s ability to turn current voice assistants into true digital agents able to have natural exchanges will remove the barrier of ‘talking to technology.'”