It was anticipated that voice recognition would play a role in Apple’s new device, whether it was the iPhone 5 or not. With Siri, Apple promises a virtual assistant, working across all apps and each functionality of the iPhone 4S creating a new level of interactivity with the smartphone.
Let us not pretend Apple has invented voice recognition technology. Android devices integrate voice recognition with Google searches. It is hit and miss. A quick test on the Sony Xperia Arc shows that “Italian restaurants in Liverpool” comes up quickly. Searching for contacts works well although trying to get it to recognise famous names like Carlos Tevez or Hercule Poirot comes up sadly lacking, although this may be interpreted as bullying.
Siri promises to take voice recognition one step further. It allows you to use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings and make phone calls. So far, so standard. But the added feature, claim Apple, is understanding. Siri can interact. The video on the Apple iPhone 4S website shows a user using voice recognition to arrange a meeting, Siri flags up that the time clashes with another meeting and suggests an alternative. A sentient virtual assistant?
Flanked and powered by the new iOS5, Siri integrates with each app on the iPhone 4S, from Calendar, Maps to Messages and browser searches. The extensive presentation that Apple’s Phil Schiller and Tim Cook undertook to showcase its potential showed Siri’s ability to integrate with day to day, hour to hour use of the device. Its ability to anticipate and come up with creative solutions makes it an attractive proposition. Search for a restaurant nearby, and then search for a film. Siri will show you when the film is on after dinner, and will ensure the search results come up with a solution that is nearby and convenient. It is context that makes Siri stand apart.
There is history to Apple and Siri. Apple bought the third-party Siri app in 2010, thus announcing to the world it was moving into voice recognition, so the announcement of its integration with the iPhone 4S was not a surprise. Its compatibility within the smartphone makes it a central and dominant feature of the new device. Siri is easily accessed behind the home button. The original app was already available until the launch of the iPhone 4S took place, but a note has since appeared saying it will no longer be available until 15th October, making it exclusive to the iPhone 4S. There has been some criticism that the announcement of an exclusive app makes the iPhone 4S more attractive than it might have been, but it is common for Apple to announce integration of a new product or program in stages, rather than cross-platform all at once.
Also, this makes the application all the more attractive. Although Siri was available as a third party app before the launch of the iPhone 4S, the dual core processor of the new device means it will run faster. There are also rumours that it may be integrated into the iPad in the future.
Apple wants Siri to work in English, French and German and the focus on nuance and context suggests that as the app gets more used to the user’s voice, its potential will increase exponentially. Siri will work over 3G and Wi-fi.
Mark Hirst Managing Director of Best Mobile Contracts believes Siri is just one addition that makes the iPhone 4S stand out, “Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 4S with an A5 dual core processor, 8 megapixel camera and Siri voice recognition software, brings Apple up to speed with other smartphone handsets in the marketplace right now. “