iPhone 4S Are You Siri-ous

Published at OnIslam.net
“Whatever you like,” came the reply. Of course, when Eddie Murphy implied the question in ‘Coming to America’ to his bride to be, who would have thought we, the everyday public, would be blessed with our own companion, our own digital personal assistant to love?

As word spread last week of Apple’s press conference the social-sphere was flush with comments, opinions and statements.


“Number 5 IS alive #iPhone5 #Apple” one suggested on Twitter. But then a silence ensued, communities expectations fell, Tim Cook stepped into the limelight and we were instead blessed with the iPhone 4S: an upgrade retaining the external look with an improved internal schematic.
You could say the 4 undertook a spiritual journey becoming the 4S, where the benefit isn’t so much visually apparent a it is an internal improvement.

You will love me because I am ‘The most amazing iPhone yet,” spoke the marketing. Perhaps, but I cannot remove the image of Eric Schmidt, the then CEO of Google, demonstrating voice control at Mobile World Congress in 2010. It seemed as if Apple had finally caught up with Android. This, however, is an over-simplification and a half-truth that has been told to counter-balance expectation of iPhone 5.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been toted for years across science-fiction. Siri appears to be the next logical step towards this iteration. I say ‘appears’ as product demonstrations are just that, and until the handset reaches people and they experience it in person, Siri may be more of a vision and less of a delivered offering.

However, if packaged correctly, Siri may be the poor man’s ‘Concierge’ service, giving those with expensive credit cards an alternative to their in-person on-phone operator; a real-time offering which I bet will be more accurate!

How well Siri understands context will determine its success, but such an innovation truly falls in-line with Apple’s commitment to leading the pack. If only rumors of an iPhone 5 were quashed sooner, expectation may not have been as high and the reaction to Siri across the social-sphere may have been considerably more productive.

As for the rest of the offering, if I can be so crass, at first sight it appears to be a linear upgrade: the better A5 chip, a larger megapixel count for the camera, a larger aperture (often underestimated and quite useful), and onboard editing, all bundled with an initial drop in Apple’s stock as investors managed their iPhone 5 expectations. Yet lost in the confusion was the extension of the iOS 5 operating system that will synchronize data in real-time and the true power behind Siri.

Deeper Answers

To many the 4S along with Siri and its camera upgrades are a half-baked response to increased competitiveness from other platforms such as Android.

In recent years, Will Smith in iRobot epitomized the human-machine interaction, with his subtle dislike for AI countered with his quest for finding certain truths. Similarly, consider this: how many times have you turned on the TV to check the weather forecast, hovered over the Accuweather toolbar icon to see your weather, searched for it online, or even clicked refresh on the app on your phone?

Instead, imagine just asking Siri, “Do I need an umbrella today?” while in the background a series of processes engage to identify where you are right now, finding the forecast and giving you an accurate answer.

And whether implemented today or not, it is just a matter of time before Siri recognizes if it’s your weekday or weekend, charts your location where you are now, your location where you work, taps into your diary to see if you travel anywhere else, becomes smart enough to understand whether you work indoors or outdoors, taps into a city building schematic to know if your office has air conditioning and then replies: “It isn’t raining in Guildford right now, but it will be while you are at work in London. The ambient temperature is expected to be 27 Celsius and your office has air conditioning which on average is usually quite high, so you might need a heavier shirt with socks. You have an evening outdoor engagement in Gravesend, where chances of rain are 70 percent. In short – your call.”

Of course, Siri could just say “Yes,” but as we are discovering with the likes of Facebook, technological changes are imposed upon us with over-reaching customization often boggling the mind, confusing the user, creating frustration, and leaving us upset. Oh wait, that’s not the Apple way so perhaps the experience will be different.

To many the 4S along with Siri and its camera upgrades are a half-baked response to increased competitiveness from other platforms such as Android. While in some ways this is good for consumers it shifts the burden onto Apple to ensure that there is something equally market-leading with the iPhone 5 when it does make an appearance.

The recent death of Steve Jobs so soon after his stepping down also adds considerable pressure on Apple to sustain their innovative flair which drove the company’s vision. While some try, no person can be copied for they are who they are. The real question is whether the collective team’s creativity can propagate itself under a new leader or will this have been a much greater end of an era.

In the meantime, full credit to Apple on yet another great innovation. And to answer the title question, ‘Are you Siri-ous?’ the reply must be ‘Yes, I am.’


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