Hey Siri, Don’t Trivialize My Timer

Siri’s dictated timers are a feature I use all the time. Especially given my propensity to be distracted and lose track of short-term time commitments, the ability to blurt out in the kitchen: “Hey Siri, set a timer for one minute,” has saved many a pancake from being burned.

Something that has bothered me about this feature for a long time is the determination Siri has to be lighthearted and downright goofy when creating the timer, when the timer is for a specific time such as one or three minutes.

“Hey Siri, set a timer for three minutes.”

Siri's visual response when asked to set a three-minute timer.

Ha. Ha. Yeah, I’m always cooking an egg when I set a three-minute timer. By contrast, a request to set a two-minute timer is always met with a curt, yet still humanized, “Two minutes and counting.” If you set a timer for one minute? Whoo-ee, you’re in for some sass. Sometimes Siri just says “Your timer is set for one minute,” but more often you’ll hear a quip like “Remember, a watched iPhone never boils.”

I’ve been more irritated by this cuteness after years of using the feature and, I suppose, the frequency with which I set one and three-minute timers. It’s mostly a passing exasperation for me, but it strikes me as an example where emotionally charging a software interaction is a risky proposition.

My one-minute timers are usually for something trivial like pancakes, but what if I were using them in a more fraught scenario? What if one-minute timers play a serious role in the administration of care to a loved one? What if it’s a key interval in a CPR procedure? One of Siri’s cute quips is “The suspense is killing me.” What if the suspense really is killing somebody?

(Radar #23776483)