I wanted to put down a few thoughts on Siri now that I’ve used for over a week. By now you’ve no doubt heard about this voice recognition functionality that Apple has built into the iPhone 4S. Let me start off by saying that Siri is no gimmick. It’s not awkward voice commands that you need to memorize to try to do simply things like call a contact. The other mobile phone vendors, like Microsoft and Google, have dismissed Siri as being unnecessary, but let me assure you, after seeing it, I’m sure that both those two companies are feverishly working to try to create their own version of Siri to replace their simplistic voice command systems on their respective platforms.
I wanted to high light two aspects of Siri that I used repeatedly all last week that drove home the value of this new interface. The first is for setting reminders and calendar appointments. Looking back at my reminders from last week I set ended up setting 37 reminders that were a mix of work and personal items. Using Siri it is dead easy.
- “Remind me next Thursday that it’s parent teacher interviews at 7pm”
- “Remind me to pick up a new power cord when I’m near the Eaton’s Centre”
- “Remind me to mail thank you cards when I arrive home.”
- “Book a meeting for tomorrow morning at 9am to work on presentation.”
- “Remind me to email my presentation when I arrive at work.”
- “Remind me to pick up toast bread and juice when I leave work.”
- “Remind me everyday at 9pm to sign my daughter’s agenda book.”
- “Remind me to call [client name] when I arrive at the office”
- “Book a lunch meeting for this Friday with [name of person] for noon.”
The above is just a sampling of some of the reminders I set for myself. As if by magic, these reminders were set flawlessly. Correct dates and times. Some set up as repeating items automatically. Some set to trigger only depending on my location. It is as simple to set as it is to tell someone to remind you. It’s transformative. Calendar appointments that take 3-5 steps normally are done in a single sentence. Again, transformative.
The second is the ability to send text messages via voice. At first I thought that this would be very useful in the car. It is of course, as it means I don’t have to type while driving, which is unsafe and a legal no-no. What has surprised me however is that it is also useful when you are simply running around doing things.
For example, I was walking to a lunch meeting last week and my friend texted me “Have a table” and I simply spoke while crossing the street and said “Tell [person's name] I am on my way”. Siri then simply sent a text back to that person that said “I am on my way”. It was flawless. I didn’t have to slow down, glance down, finger type and send the text. I simply spoke as though on the phone. That scenario played itself out repeatedly last week with voice commands like:
- “Tell [person's name] Heading to meeting room A now.”
- “Tell my wife I am heading to the car now”
- “Tell my daughter I’m almost at the school.”
- “Tell [person's name] Running late. See you in five.”
It is these types of things, naturally spoken, that make Siri incredibly valuable. As people begin to experience this value, they will start to use Siri for other natural language commands and searches. It is the natural language search that has companies like Google and Microsoft terrified, and rightfully so.
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I hope that you find the topics today to be entertaining, informative and thought provoking.
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So….I suspect that many people will be disappointed that the iPhone 5 didn’t launch. What that really means is beyond me. If they’d taken today’s new phone and called it a 5 rather than 4S would that make people happy? What’s important is to look inside the phone. The 4S is a big jump up from the 4. Does it warrant existing iPhone 4 users to upgrade? Maybe, but not necessarily. Of course iPhone 3GS users who skipped the iPhone 4 now have something amazing to upgrade to. Blackberry users who have been waiting also have a great option now. Many of them have held off because they didn’t want to get an iPhone 4 only to have a new model come out. Well the new model is out and it’s a perfect time. The iPhone 4S with the new iOS 5 continues to lead in terms of what you can do with your smartphone. No other phone can touch it. The apps that are iOS’s strength will now get even more robust and begin to leverage the many new features available. Of course eventually the iPhone 5 will come out (again…whatever that means) and people will start talking about some fabled iPhone 6 I’m sure. If you use that logic though, you’ll never buy a device. Compared to the other mobile vendors, who cycle through their products multiple times in one year, the iPhone has a reliable annual upgrade path and older phones aren’t left behind.
To see what’s new under the hood with the iPhone 4S, watch the video below. I think the assistant functionality in Siri, which has been purchased and integrated into the OS, is outstanding. I can’t wait to try that out for myself.