Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

Summary:Apple is winning praise in reviews for its iPhone 4S voice recognition technology, but the real test will come from word of mouth recommendations from the masses.

Apple's iPhone 4S and its Siri technology appears to be winning reviewers over, but the more interesting experiment will come beyond Friday. Why? That's when the masses start playing with the iPhone 4S' voice recognition and artificial intelligence technologies. Will non-techies start glowing about Siri?

Voice recognition technology has been around for a while, but Apple is betting that Siri can land the upgrades. So far, so good. Apple netted 1 million preorders for the iPhone 4S.

The reviews below all have the same theme: Siri is impressive. All of these reviewers tout Siri and how the technology grew on them:

Daring Fireball's John Gruber sums it up nicely. He said: "I wouldn’t say I can’t live without Siri. But I can say that I don’t want to."

Siri could become a killer app---a digital servant for moms trying to keep their and their kids'---appointments straight. If Siri's AI improves and actually learns the iPhone 4S owner there will be a bond that will be tough to break.

See also: iPhone 4S benchmarks and specs begin to emerge | How Apple's iPhone 4S preorders stack up historically | iPhone 4S pre-orders tally 1 million in 24 hours | iPhone 4S: Bluetooth 4.0, the quiet innovation

For now, the reviews are notable when it comes to Siri, but I play the down since they all come from techies. The iPhone 4S reviewers are a lot like movie critics. Just because these critics like a movie doesn't mean the masses will.

That's why the most interesting period of the iPhone 4S launch comes next week and the days after. If my mother-in-law bemoans the fact she has an iPhone 4 and not the upgrade, Apple has a Siri-ous hit on its hands.

Piper Jaffray said in a research note that he expects iPhone 3Gs owners to make the jump to the iPhone 4S:

We estimate 18.8m users of the iPhone 3GS are likely to upgrade to the iPhone 4S. This accounts for 18% of our FY12 iPhone unit estimates. Our estimate includes several conservative assumptions about unit sales and upgrade intentions. But given our survey work suggests 94% of iPhone users expect to buy another iPhone, it appears Apple has built an annuity of smartphone buyers. While the lack of a new form-factor leaves some potential upgrades from the iPhone 4 on the table, we believe the addressable base of iPhone 3GS users that will likely upgrade to the iPhone 4S is significant. Additionally, we expect Apple to continue to attract new users with the iPhone 3GS that is now free with a 2-year contract. Collectively, these upgrade sales and sales to new users may push iPhone units higher than the 25 million we are estimating for the Dec-11 quarter.

Related: Apple iPhone 4S embargo lifts, reviews go live

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Smartphones

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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