The closest to a ‘one more thing’ that we got from Apple’s iPhone 4S reveal was Siri, a voice activated ‘humble assistant’ that enables users to ask all manner of questions, dictate messages and even search for locations on Maps – all by using just their voice.
The product of a $300 million purchase of a voice recognition firm of the same name in 2010, Siri seems to be Apple’s secret weapon in providing a genuinely new way for users to interact with their mobiles.
Detractors claim that this technology was very much in existence prior to the iPhone 4S, and they are largely right.
Even though it already existed as a popular iPhone application (one which has recently disappeared from the App Store, unsurprisingly), Siri has afforded Apple a new toy to show off the power of the iPhone 4S’ dual-core A5 chip, as well as proof that voice-recognition software can actually work.
Siri was already an impressive app: one that showcased a world beyond basic voice-dialling and firing up playlists by demonstrating that everything from booking movie tickets to getting directions home was a mere utterance away.
But it is arguably the depth of integration and apparent ease of use that Siri offers that may well set the iPhone 4S apart in an ever more crowded smartphone arena.
From its ability to understand nuances in questions (“Do I need a raincoat today?” versus “What’s the weather like today?”), to its potential to ruin pub quizzes forever with the integration of Wikipedia and ‘knowledge engine’ Wolfram Alpha, Siri offers an impressive degree of dialogue between gadget and user.
Bringing an otherwise under-utilised smartphone feature to the forefront – much as Apple did previously with video calling for Facetime – only highlights the tech giant’s strength in repackaging and marketing niche technology to appeal directly to the mass-market consumer.
Apple took the humble ‘app’ from the smartphone fringes into a household brand - 18 billion downloads and counting - as well as got everyone prodding and pawing at touchscreens with the original iPhone.
Whilst Siri may well be met with snide remarks and derision upon the launch of the iPhone 4S by die-hard early adopters, it simply isn’t aimed at them, but rather the legions of everyday users that have given the iPhone five per cent of the worldwide mobile market.
For Apple to maintain that position of power, splashing out $300 million for Siri’s bleeding-edge technology suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad investment after all.