Monday, October 17, 2011

Siri: The killer app for the iPhone 4S

I freely admit that I'm a gadget guy. I often buy new technology when it's first available and I'll admit that has not always worked out. I remember having several "Newton moments" waiting for the Apple Newton to attempt to turn my chicken-scratch handwriting into text. It routinely misunderstood- often to the delight of whomever was watching my demonstration.
Whenever I want to buy a new gadget, the first step is rationalization. How can I rationalize spending the money on this thing? Well, I don't have any other expensive habits. I don't play golf or gamble. But the real rationalization for buying the new iPhone 4S was my kids. The 8 megapixel camera can shoot 1080p HD video with image stabilization. After all, I can't go back in time and reshoot today’s pictures with a higher quality camera tomorrow. Basically 100% of the photos and video I take of my kids (heck, of anything) are taken with my iPhone; after all they say the best camera in the world is the one you have with you! So I convinced myself (and my wife since we make purchasing decision above $100 together) that the better camera alone was worth it. And it really is.
But there's another new feature of the iPhone 4S called Siri that I was interested in. For those of you that have somehow managed to still not have heard about Siri, it's a built-in personal assistant that recognizes your voice and can take actions for you. But as much as I attempted to rationalize Siri as a reason to buy the new iPhone 4S, somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I couldn't help but think it was going to be more cool than practical. That was, until I tried it.
Siri can be activated simply by holding your iPhone 4S up to your ear as if you are about to make a call. The very first thing I asked Siri to do was "Tell my wife I'm thinking about her." That is word for word what I said. Siri then sent my wife a text message that read “I’m thinking about her”. Apparently, I should have said, "Tell my wife I'm thinking about you" so that the text message would have been "I'm thinking about you", but that's close enough for me. Next, I asked Siri to call my mom. Siri asked, "What is your mother's name?" and I replied, "JoAnn". "Is your mother JoAnn Perlman?", asked Siri. "Yes", I replied. Siri then asked, "Do you want me to remember that JoAnn Perlman is your mother?" and again I replied, "Yes". Siri then told me it was calling my mom and the call went through. Pretty cool.
Testing Siri further I asked, "What is the capital of Texas?" Siri responded with a document that had several details about Texas including the fact that the capital is Austin, Texas. On my way home from lunch, I heard a text message come in. I put my iPhone to my ear and asked Siri to read my last message. It read it and asked me if I'd like to reply. I told it what I wanted my reply to say and Siri sent it. Next, I asked it what time my marketing meeting was today. It looked at my calendar and responded correctly. I asked it what I had on my calendar for tomorrow. It read my tasks. I even composed an email message and sent it while driving, though I'm not sure how you tell it which email account to use.
This is pretty amazing and useful technology and I'm sure Apple will take this much, much further. Siri seems to be the killer feature of the new iPhone 4S. Someone pointed out to me that technology like this has existed for Android for sometime. Well, in fact Siri has existed for iPhone for some time as well. What Apple did in iOS5 is buy it and deeply integrate it. But it’s interesting that I had never heard of it until now for either platform. Everyone is talking about Siri now but I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning it before for either platform.
For an app or feature to be considered “killer” to me, it must be very useful but I also have to know about it. It does no good for a great product or feature to exist if no one ever hears about it.

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