Siri Date Calculations and WolframAlpha


Speaking of Siri, David Sparks posted a great overview of how you can perform date calculations with Siri. I didn't know any of those tips, and I was surprised to find out they are based on WolframAlpha. I have been doing date calculations in WolframAlpha for years, and I didn't even think about using Siri for that purpose.

David's post convinced me to do the same with Siri's Italian sister. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the results were disappointing. First, I asked Siri to calculate the days between April 3, 2010 and September 1, 2010. The query was parsed correctly, but Siri said she couldn't find a contact in my Address Book.

For the second test, I asked which day it'll be in 20 days from now, and Siri replied with the following mix of Italian and English:

E' Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It basically told me that today is (“E'” in Italian) February 26th, completely ignoring my date query. Last, I asked which day it was 17 days ago, and this time Siri didn't combine languages, but it replied with 17 days from now – March 15th, 2013.

I believe part of the culprit is that iOS 6 can still get confused if you use Siri in Italian but keep your device's settings to English. Another example is how, with a device set to English and Siri in Italian, Maps navigation in iOS 6 still speaks Italian directions…in English. You can imagine how that sounds. But generally, it's Siri's own parsing engine that's inferior to the “real” English Siri.

Like I said many times in the past, Siri has still a long way to go with the Italian language, and the software hasn't improved much since I last checked in November 2012.


What I have been using for quick and reliable date calculations is WolframAlpha. On iOS, the company has a native Universal app that understands my queries just fine 99% of the time and that allows me to type characters faster with series of extra keyboard rows. It's not pretty, but it is efficient and it also displays additional information related to your date query – such as date formats, events on a specific day, and time difference from today. I may not have the same date calculation skills of Dr. Drang, but WolframAlpha never disappointed me.

The WolframAlpha app is $2.99 on the App Store.