iPhone 4S, Siri and The Future

I am now clearly an Apple fan, having shelled out money to pre-order an iPhone 4S as soon as the orders opened up on the Apple Online Store.
In the past, I pre-ordered both the iPad and iPad 2 prior to their respective releases, and received my orders on the shipment date. I had the same expectation this year, and was disappointed on Friday 14 October when the phone failed to materialise. The shipment tracking system (from TNT) showed it as transiting through Hong Kong.

Like a lot of Australians, I felt somewhat let down, particularly when rumours suggested that the Australian iPhone 4S deliveries could be “delayed by one to two weeks” compared to other countries.

I reckon there must’ve been some serious behind the scenes conversations within Apple or probably between Apple and TNT, because I was delighted yesterday (Sunday 16 October) turned up. I was told that the driver was “getting ahead on Monday shipments”, but this doesn’t seem to have been unique with Darren Rowse of ProBlogger also tweeting he’d received his.

Anyway, my initial disappointment is gone, and I am happy to have my brand new iPhone 4S.

Initial setup was easy – I had turned on the iCloud Backup service on my previous iPhone 4, and simply restored from that. Settings came in beautifully, and then apps re-downloaded. After a sync to my Mac, all was good. It was a seamless transition, perhaps eased by having already had my iPhone 4 on iOS5 and iCloud.

Next I started playing with Siri. This “virtual assistant”, labelled as in beta, is already remarkable and will get better as further enhancements are made.

Being outside of the US, Siri can “only use for businesses, maps, and traffic in the United States, and when you’re using U.S. English”. Its ability to recognise my (Australian) accent is wonderful, and I am amazed by the ease with it handles contractions and the like.

Creating, moving, and cancelling meetings and reminders is a snap, and its actually far easier than typing these into iOS, particularly on an iPhone. It reads messages and voicemails to you, and allows you to compose new ones.

There are also some wonderful easter eggs built in. Try saying “Beam Me Up Scotty” and you will get responses like:

  • OK. Stand still
  • Please remove your belt, shoes and jacket, and empty your pockets
  • Sorry Captain, your Tricorder is in Airplane mode
  • Energizing….
  • WiFi or 3G?
  • Please install the latest version of iCloud and try again.

There are a number of other great easter eggs. Trying asking Siri “what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything” and seeing what you get. Do it a few times.

Siri does a great job also of giving you quick information. If you ask for the current temperature in a city, it’ll come back with the current temperature and an hourly forecast for the rest of the day. You can ask it for the time in any (major) city, and you’ll get it.

It also plugs into Wolfram Alpha, and as such becomes a knowledge engine. You can find out wonderful information about people, places, etc.

Siri also allows you to build relationships. Once you tell it who is your spouse, mother, father, child, etc, you can use that relationship instead of a name.

To me, this could really be the start of something amazing. Having a virtual assistant that can manage a lot of the tasks for you, and also retrieve information will be an increasingly incredible opportunity.

Despite the relatively lacklustre media immediately following the iPhone 4S / iOS5 / Siri announcement, I think we are on the tipping point of another great flex point in technology.

Thanks Steve Jobs for bringing us this far. I guess we’re on our own from here…


Photography enthusiastic, writer, hiker and diving geek from Canberra (and Sydney), Australia. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

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