If not for Siri, would we care about the iPhone 4S?

The iPhone 4S is selling like crazy, but its hardware enhancements alone are not worth the upgrade
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor

In previous years I've either been one to stand in line, or one to sit at home anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new iPhone. This year, however, was a bit different. First off, I wasn't able to read the live blogs in real-time, so I caught up on what was announced after the fact. Second, most of the "new" stuff that was announced wasn't new at all, since I'd been playing with both iCloud and iOS 5 since beta. That said, Siri was new, in its implementation, but I had been playing with it since early 2010, when it was a standalone app. Of course, we knew then that whoever bought the company, the true power of Siri would be in its full integration with the handset, and not as a standalone app.

At any rate, with the above in mind, when the iPhone 4S finally was available for pre-order, I placed my order and was then told that it would be arriving at my door on October 14th. This gave me the false impression that sales were not nearly what they had been for previous launches--boy was I wrong. As Apple themselves have reported, orders topped one million in the first 24 hours. This is just pre-orders, so I can't even imagine what it's going to be by the time Apple has its earnings call on Tuesday.

As for the arrival of my own iPhone, I mentioned above that in previous years I've waited in line. Well, this year I wasn't even home to receive the iPhone, opting instead to pre-sign for the delivery. So, when I finally got home on October 14th in the late evening, I found a brown box at my door, opened it, and then turned it on. The next part was pretty straight forward, opting to initialize it as a replacement phone for my existing iPhone 4, and then watching as it authorized, and then asked to be synced with my iTunes.

When syncing was complete, the feature that I hadn't had a chance to play with was Siri. Well, for me Siri didn't work "out of the box". After repeated failed attempts to talk with Siri, I finally rebooted and then Siri worked great! By the way, I've since found out that Siri has been known to hiccup and if it does, follow Matt Miller's guide to re-initialize Siri.

Now I sit two days after receiving my iPhone 4S. I don't have the excitement in my body that I've had in year's past, probably because I didn't wait in line for hours to get my hands on the new iPhone, not to mention that it wasn't revolutionary, like previous upgrades have been. That said, the camera is faster, the pictures look sharper, and the phone is much faster overall, and of course, notification center is a must-have.

One really cool thing about the 4S, though, is its implementation of Siri. Without any training, anyone can ask it just about anything. This has proven to be the most interesting part, since my seven year old sent a text message to a friend of mine via his voice and then remarked, "Wow! I didn't know your iPhone could talk!" Of course, my wife's reaction was to be expected with her usual, "that is so annoying", when Siri misinterpreted a statement I made.

The above has me wondering if it hadn't been for Siri, would the iPhone 4S be yet another upgrade and something that most users would pass on? Did analysts and reporters initially call the iPhone 4S a dud after the keynote because it hadn't been introduced by Steve Jobs, who could make a different colored piece of paper a must-have for everyone with white paper?

I think that right now people hear about Siri and think, "my Android phone does that". But as they read more about Siri and hear people literally talking to their iPhone, more people will take notice and pick up Apple's latest offering.

One more thing: if you're wondering what kind of things you can say to Siri and what responses you might receive, check out shitsirisays.com.

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