Well, I never! iOS 10's voicemail transcription has a potty mouth

Turns out, Siri doesn't give a ... darn

Anyone who has looked at automatically-generated subtitles on YouTube can tell you that asking a computer to describe what a human says can lead to hilarious results. Now, Apple has brought that issue to iOS 10 with support for transcribing voicemails.

It's a cool feature that makes it easy to know what your Aunt Matilda said about the gastrointestinal problems her dog is having, without actually having to listen to a three-minute-long, blow-by-blow description. But be careful about trusting it -- or reading the transcriptions around sensitive eyes.

I learned that the hard way Thursday when someone left me a message about a reorder special on a wine club shipment. Except my iPhone didn't hear it that way, proudly telling me about "wearing your c**k s**t."

iphonetranscription Blair Hanley Frank

As it turns out, iOS 10's voicemail transcription has a potty mouth.

This, coming from a phone that I had to teach to swear! I remember having to bludgeon my phone's autocorrect dictionary into learning that no, I don't mean that my friends' artwork is "cool ship."

Apple stresses that voice mail transcription is still in beta, and as with any voice recognition service, there are bound to be hiccups like this one. The company offers  users the ability to provide feedback about the transcription and send off the audio file to Cupertino to help improve future voicemails.

But the swearing in the transcription seems pretty unique in iOS. It's not like Siri is suddenly down to start calling people nasty SOBs. Apple's virtual assistant is mildly chiding whenever someone (like a couple of foul-mouthed tech journalists working on an absurd article) decide to throw a string of profanity its way.

Now, before you ask, it's not clear whether the autocorrect settings are associated with words frequently used on a particular device. And yes, it's possible that my own speech patterns may have influenced the iPhone's transcription of an unclear message. (Though I'm usually most aggressive around changing "duck" and "ducking" when presented with a new iOS device.)

It's clear that Apple does tailor its speech models, however: Rattling off comic George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television to the American English version of Siri will lead to it claiming that the third word on the list is "can't." Flip over to Siri's British counterpart, though, and it catches all seven swears in one go.

A representative for the company didn't respond to a request for comment by press time, sadly, so it's hard to know whether this sweary transcription is part of a new move by the company to better support profanity, or if it's just an oversight.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Apple

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?