Disgruntled iPhone 4S Buyers Told to Try Again

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Apple customers dissatisfied with the iPhone 4S's "Siri" function must specify how the voice-activated feature allegedly fails to work as advertised, a federal judge ruled.
     U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken dismissed a federal class action against Apple over its Siri feature, but said the plaintiffs could amend their complaint "to remedy the deficiencies."
     The iPhone 4S, launched by Apple in October 2011, was the first Apple device to include "Siri," a voice-activated "intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking," according to Apple's press release.
     The company's advertisements and press releases detailed how Siri could respond to spoken commands and questions, such as providing current traffic conditions and reminding the user to call a specific contact.
     At an Apple press conference unveiling Siri, a presenter asked Siri several questions, including the time in Paris and whether there were any Greek restaurants in Palo Alto, Calif., and received "prompt and appropriate responses," according to the ruling.
     Apple's "extensive multimillion-dollar nationwide marketing campaign" for the iPhone 4S paid off, according to the ruling, and about 90 percent of the iPhones sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2012 were 4Ss.
     But not all buyers were enthralled with the new voice-activated assistant.
     Lead plaintiff Frank M. Fazio filed a class action against Apple last March, claiming Siri did not work as advertised.
     He said he bought the phone based on Apple's ads representing the Siri feature as easy to use and capable of understanding spoken commands, but claimed it gave him wrong answers and did not understand his questions.
     Fazio said Apple deceived consumers into buying what was essentially a more expensive version of the iPhone 4. He also accused Apple of exploiting people's trust in its brand to convince them that the Siri function was "worth paying the extra money to have," when Apple knew Siri was defective.
     Apple sought dismissal, saying the plaintiffs failed to specifically identify enough statements in its commercials as false and misleading to proceed in court. It added that many of the statements the plaintiffs did identify were not actionable.
     U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in San Francisco sided with Apple Tuesday and dismissed the complaint with leave to amend.
     "Apple is correct that plaintiffs have not alleged sufficiently how [its] statements were misrepresentative or fraudulent, and how Siri failed to perform as advertised," Wilken wrote. "For example, plaintiffs do not make clear in the [complaint] whether their theory is that the advertisements were misleading, because Siri never responds to questions or is always inaccurate, does so more slowly than shown in the ads, uses more data than advertised or is less consistent than shown in the ads.
     "They have not explained what exactly Apple led consumers to believe in the commercials about Siri's performance, through what particular statements, nor have they stated what about these representations was in fact false. They have not specified precisely how Siri failed to meet the representations that they claim Apple made, what the truth about Siri's performance actually was and how Apple knew or should have known that these representations were false. These deficiencies deprive Apple of the opportunity to respond to the allegations of misconduct that plaintiffs make."
     Wilken dismissed claims of fraud and unfair competition for the same reason, saying the plaintiffs failed to identify "which commercials or other misleading advertisements they each relied upon in purchasing their devices."
     Breach-of-warranty claims also failed, Wilken said, because the plaintiffs did not notify Apple about the alleged breach within a reasonable time before filing suit, and they failed to show that the iPhone 4S was inherently unfit for its intended purpose.
     "Plaintiffs admitted that the iPhone 4S is at bottom a phone," she wrote. "Plaintiffs' argument here, that the ordinary purpose of the iPhone 4S is to use the Siri feature to send messages and complete other tasks is not consistent with that argument."
     She added that the unjust enrichment claim could no longer be supported, "because all of the claims that could form a theory of recovery have been dismissed."
     However, Wilken said the plaintiffs could amend their complaint to fix the pleading "deficiencies." If they do so, she gave Apple 14 days to respond.