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

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

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  • Even more underwhelmed.....

    I watched all the vids, read all the write-ups and reviews and ran smack into the following questions:<br>1. Why can't SIRI run on the i4, btw SIRI is not new on the iPhone... <br>2. Other than the camera, is there really a reason to upgrade if you already own an i4? (3G and 3GS yes I can see)<br>3. I am seeing limitations app-wise on the iPad2 and can expect the same on the 4S<br>4. Camera aside, other than a speed increase what is the new hardware getting me? Software?<br>5. You can expect most of the 4S features unlocked for i4 if you are willing to jailbreak<br>6. SIRI is a 50-50 on whether another Apple gimmick or a real hit.<br><br>Based on all this I am taking away the following:<br>If you ownan i4 it makes little sense to upgrade.<br>If you own a 3GS or earlier version it does make sense to upgrade.<br><br><img border="0" src="" alt="plain">
    • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

      @rhonin Here's how they got you. If you previously used Siri on your iPhone 4 as an app, it's all over. Apple is killing it's functionality Friday. So if you want Siri, you have to upgrade, which means you pay early upgrade fees, which have been raised and selling prices on eBay have lowered due to record sales of iPhone 4 on it.

      The processing for Siri is done in the cloud. They could have easily put it on iPhone 4. They just want you to upgrade every 12-16 months. Not every other generation.

      Android here I come. Please don't stab me in the back.
      • Siri system got complete overhaul to keep with drastic level of scale: ...

        @seriously3456: ... going from processing maybe <b>mere thousands of voice recognition/AI tasks per second to millions.</b><br><br>Apple says that part of Siri's processing is done on the device (presumably, text to speech and/or speech recognition?). As I explained above, there is reason why it had to be done this way comparing to the latest time when Siri as a small audience, obscure to masses application.<br><br>So now Siri very might not work on less than A5-powered devices indeed.<br><br>Also, please pay attention than no jailbreaking will make Siri work since the AI part of Siri still works only via the cloud. This means that Apple databases compare your iPhone's serial number, model -- and <b>if it is not iPhone 4S, then the service will be denied.</b>
      • DeRSSS: You know an awful lot about the internal workings of Apple

        Do you work for Apple?

        You do write very authoritatively about many things that no one outside of Apple knows for sure.

        Sometimes I get the feeling that you are guessing and are totally making this stuff up.

        But it is possible that you work for Apple.
      • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

        @seriously3456 <br><br>"Please don't stab me in the back." <br><br>Good luck with that. Android's a very large decentralized and fragmented sw project. They will do things that are 'surprising' to preserve the value of their sw. <br><br>(See the closing of Hummingbird, purchase of MI, continued fragmentation of the 'brand', exposure to malware, yada yada.)<br><br>Eventually, you'll be had; not that Android's malicious. Just that you're a small fish in an ocean and 'things happen' (as the Siri/4S restriction has done today).
        pk de cville
      • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth


        I recommend WP7 over android especially for a former iPhone user.
      • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

        @seriously3456 Or you can simply jailbreak and enabe it with a tweak, just like the "Music" and "Video" Applications were united into an iPod app (including on iOS5) and Multitasking was enabled on the Iphone 3G (n older devices) :p Siri can simply be enabled using a tweak, and if what DeRSSS claims is actually true and not just something pulled out of his a$s, then just as with the iBooks store, there's a tweak to bypass those Jailbroken devices restrictions :P

        It's all about the tweaks, a freed iDevice is capable of almost any resaonable thing you can think of; including stealing of features from other SmartPhones, like Widgets.
      • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

        @seriously3456 Your going to Android because having to upgrade every 12-16 months to get a feature bothers you? So your answer to this is to go to the platform that has new improved devices every month making last months devices outdated? Brilliant move :-)
    • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

      Nuance's product ran on iPhone 4, this is Siri, more Apple functions that takes advantage of system wide resources, nuance's product didn't.

      So if you have a 2010 television is there a reason to upgrade to the 2011? Make your own decision. Walk/Run/Skip/Jog/Drive to the Apple store, demo the device and make your own decision. Wondering why someone who has a fully functional device would interrupt their usage, paying out of pocket just to say, GOT ONE! That speaks more to a lack of self esteem than it does lack of reason to upgrade.
      • From Will I to Should I

        @mrgoodall <br>I can upgrade and ATT is allowing a lot of folks early upgrade options - now I have the option of upgrading or waiting.<br>With the plethora of new devices coming out I'll pause and see.....
      • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth


        All preliminary indications are that the iPhone 4S Siri capabilities are impressive - as is the camera and video functions. And, according to Walt Mossberg, the battery life has been substantially upgraded from the iPhone 4 model

        Indeed, all indications are that this is a solid hardware design with some ground breaking software features.

        Choice is good but (and I have heard that the Galaxy IIs is a fine phone in it's own right) but you might have a tougher decision to make than you believed.

        As for myself, I have already posted my decision to keep my simple flip phone/iPad 2 combo for my mobile needs.

        Also, just like James Kendrick explains in his latest blog, I usually carry a tablet along with me. However, I do lust after the iPhone 4S camera and video capabilities. But, as some TalkBack readers have already posted, Siri might be available after the holiday buying season for the iPad 2 in a software upgrade. Let's hope so.
    • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

      @rhonin The iPhone 4s's most important upgrade is not the 8MP camera, it's Siri. Apple bought the Siri technology in April 2012, it is not a speech to text translator, this is just the tip of the iceberg and this is in fact a technology owned by Nuance (company which converts different input data to different output format).
      The real importance of Siri is it's AI engine which is a natural language interpreter. This technology was built with collaboration of the DARPA, the inventors of the Internet. Android devices are not close to what Siri AI engine can do. Not even swedish AI assistants can do what Siri does.
      About Siri not being available in iPad 2 and older devices I think its a marketing strategy by Apple. After all this technology they bought is not cheap and will bring innovation to the smartphone market first before it can reach other markets like desktops, tablets and other devices.
      Gabriel Hernandez
      • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

        @Gabriel Hernandez 2012? That was a long sleep! :D
        Graham Ellison
      • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

        @Gabriel Hernandez I think you need to look at Voice Actions on Google Market (Not Voice search, not translate, not voice input). Voice actions lets you speak things the same way as Siri. Set calendar items. Ask about random facts for info and such and it speaks them back. It runs on even two year old 500mhz Android devices.
      • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

        @Gabriel Hernandez Really? Prove it. Besides if DARPA was involved as you say, it's public domain technology. DARPA is a government agency.
      • Not buying it....

        @Gabriel Hernandez
        SIRI has been around, there are "similar" products on Android. I'm seeing this as maybe a nice to have, but not seeing as game changing enough to justify the 4S. Could be wrong.

        Anyway, just ordered the Galaxy SII.
        I'll let you know my thoughts after I've played with it for a it....
    • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

      @rhonin The answer to 1. is obvious, it's a cloud-based app. As for 6. I think the answer is obvious. It's a time saver, so it's useful. It's also a life saver for blind people for whom smartphones were previously not an option.

      Jailbreaking seems like an option to some, but do I really want to risk totally losing functionality every time Apple releases an OS update? No, in the end it's a silly, rather self defeating thing to do. And I'm definitely upgrading from the iPhone 4. The speed hike is a great boost, and the camera is a bonus.

      I'm a professional skeptic. I'm not happy that Siri doesn't work on my iPhone 4. But I do understand that the speed hike was necessary to ensure functionality and a consistent experience. This is the nature of cloud apps. It's the reason why mobile devices will have to improve at a much faster pace than desktop computers ever did, if we are to enjoy everything that cloud computing is about.

      Disclaimer: I'm involved in developing cloud-based solutions.
      Graham Ellison
    • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth

      @rhonin Even if you have the 3GS it doesn't make sense. It makes more sense to just upgrade the OS on your 3GS to iOS 5. It turns out that the performance boost is the best on a 3GS.
      • Boost?

        That I did not know....
    • RE: Apple's iPhone 4S' voice capabilities: Watch the word of mouth


      If the phone reception is improved over the i4, that is a very nice improvement.

      If you travel outside the US, the GSM capability is essential.