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How Bad Reporting Is Ruining The Washington Post

This piece by Paul Farhi in The Washington Post is a month old, but I missed it when it was new (I blame Macworld/iWorld Expo). Headline, “How Siri Is Ruining Your Cellphone Service”:

Siri’s dirty little secret is that she’s a bandwidth guzzler, the digital equivalent of a 10-miles-per-gallon Hummer H1.

To make your wish her command, Siri floods your cell network with a stream of data; her responses require a similarly large flow in return. A study published this month by Arieso, an Atlanta firm that specializes in mobile networks, found that the Siri-equipped iPhone 4S uses twice as much data as does the plain old iPhone 4 and nearly three times as much as does the iPhone 3G.

It doesn’t take a genius to spot the logical error here. Assuming Arieso’s data is correct, that iPhone 4S users consume more data, they offer no proof that Siri has anything to do with it. In fact, the word “Siri” doesn’t even appear in Arieso’s report. (Here’s another story from three weeks earlier, also in The Washington Post, making the same claim based on the same report: “Apple’s Siri Uses Three Times More Data Than Earlier iPhones”.)

Here’s some real reporting on how much data Siri actually consumes, from Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica:

If you use Siri 2-3 times per day at an average of 63KB per instance, you might expect to use 126KB to 189KB per day, or 3.7 to 5.5MB per month. For 4-6 times a day, that might come out to 252KB to 378KB per day, or 7.4 to 11MB per month. If you use it 10-15 times per day, you might end up using 630KB to 945KB per day, or 18.5 to 27.7MB per month.

I.e., not much.

Friday, 24 February 2012