Apple denies claims that Siri is anti-abortion

image captionSiri performs a range of functions, including answering users questions

Apple has denied claims that its smartphone voice-activated assistant Siri is anti-abortion.

It follows reports that Siri failed to locate nearby abortion clinics. In some cases it suggested pregnancy advice centres as an alternative.

Bloggers and rights groups had voiced their concern over the omission.

Apple moved quickly to quash the rumours, stressing that the software was new and that the lack of advice was "not intentional".

"Our customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information, and while it can find a lot, it doesn't always find what you want," spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said in a statement.

"These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone, it simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better and we will in the coming weeks."

But others were concerned that Siri was not able to provide such crucial information.

"Siri is a great tool that mixes humour and sarcasm in responding to questions," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation in a letter to Apple's chief executive Tim Cook.

"Thus, it is disappointing to read that a tool like Siri is missing the mark when it comes to providing information about such personal health issues as abortion care and contraception," she added.

"Although Siri is not the principal resource for women's health care, I hope you agree that it is important that the women who are using this application not be misled about their pregnancy-related options," she added.

Digital assistant

Siri has been one of Apple's new iPhone 4S's most popular features. It has impressed users with the ease with which it responds to natural speech.

In the US it answers questions about local organisations, a service which is currently not available in the UK.

In some cases when asked to locate a nearby abortion clinic it referred users to pregnancy crisis centres. Critics claim some of these organisations have been set up to counsel women against having terminations.

Siri was bought by Apple in 2010. Co-founder Norman Winarsky has speculated that the current issue lay not with Apple but with the third-party services that provided it with information.

Marry me?

image captionSiri can be very literal-minded

Attempts to catch Siri out with complex questions have become something of a national sport.

A handful of websites have sprung up which publish screen grabs of some of its more bizarre or amusing responses.

Asked what is the best mobile phone in the world, its answer showed it was every inch the Apple product: "Wait... there are other phones?"

Its loyalty though does appear to limit its humour. When asked to "tell a good joke", it replied somewhat less amusingly: "Two iPhones walk into a bar. I forget the rest."

While some of its answers might suggest it has bridged the human/machine gap, others are more prosaic. Popped the question by one iPhone 4S user, Siri replied: "My end user agreement does not cover marriage. My apologies."

And, proving it will always be rooted in tech, when asked what it wanted for Christmas, it replied rather sadly: "I have everything I need in the cloud".

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