Wired on Siri

It does look really cool. But I can’t even get the voice commands to work on an automated menu so I’m still skeptical:

Apple never specified what the “S” stands for in iPhone 4S, and it may as well stand for Siri.

Sure, the fifth-generation iPhone’s superb camera and speedy dual-core processor are classy additions. But Siri is the reason people should buy this phone.

When I step out of my apartment today, a reminder will pop up on my iPhone 4S to deposit checks at the bank. Tonight I’m meeting my friend Peter, who wants to eat steak, so I can say, “I want prime rib” to find steakhouses nearby. I have a meeting with a colleague Alexis this Thursday, and I can add that in my calendar just by saying, “Schedule meeting with Alexis on Thursday at 3 p.m.”

I did all of this with the iPhone 4S’s new built-in app Siri, a voice-recognition technology that Apple inherited when it acquired Siri Inc., a San Jose-based startup, in 2010. The enhanced voice tool is an iteration on Apple’s previous Voice Control feature that debuted in the iPhone 3GS in 2009, which only allowed voice-powered phone dialing and music selection.

To give you an idea of how convenient Siri is, it takes about three seconds to create a reminder with a voice command, as opposed to the 10 seconds it takes me to manually type an event into a to-do list or calendar entry. Before, with the standard iPhone calendar, I would often forget to add an event because I was too busy to type it, and as a result I would forget I had something scheduled altogether. With Siri and Apple’s new Reminders to-do list app, it’s unlikely I’ll forget anything important again because the process is so effortless.

It’s kind of like having the unpaid intern of my dreams at my beck and call, organizing my life for me. I think Siri on the iPhone is a life changer, and this is only the beginning.

19 Comments

  1. I put IOS5 on my phone (4) last week, and I can definitely see the appeal. The location-based reminders are awesome, and creepy. Biking to work this morning, I heard my phone go off, when I got to work I read the reminder saying, “pay (bill) when you get to work.”

    However, using the keyboard, it takes too long to set one of those up. Siri would make me use those all the time. But, I’m not upgrading because of it. When this phone dies or, more likely, when I drop it on a rock again (stupid glass), then I’ll be upgrading.

    While I can see my notifications in icloud.com, I apparently can’t create new ones which means you’re either stuck on the tiny keyboard, or you get Siri.

  2. Apparently finding restaurants is the great unsolved problem of this century. Does this guy really not know where to get a steak in his own town? I realize I live in the sticks compared to most people, but if his friend Peter comes to visit and is in the mood for steak, I’m not going to google steak places. I already know where to get a steak. I’ve been to several steakhouses and I already know which is the best one.

    1. It would make more sense if it was Peter doing the googling. And he wasn’t meeting anyone.

      Now I feel sorry for Peter. All alone, talking to his phone for company, as he searches for a restaurant to eat at. Alone.

    2. Like many people, I live in a city. I google a restaurant (well, Yelp, usually) pretty much every single time I make plans to go out to eat.

  3. Finally! I don’t know about you guys, but I spend about sixty hours a week just typing appointments into my shitty phone and looking for steak.

  4. I would be so confused by these smart phone contraptions. I refuse to buy one and pay for the data plan. I already have to pay $70 a month for shitty DSL internet @ home ( I live in a rural Ga town with only 3 options for DSL…all start at $60 a month) Im not paying an additional $60 for 2 phones so my husband can look @ facebook all day.

  5. Yeah sure. You are more likely to always default to your tried and true steakhouse especially when you are with a guest. You don’t want to embarrass yourself going to some crappy place do you? And with the current economic situation, if I have a stack of checks to deposit you goddam know that is the ONLY thing on my mind, no reminder needed.

  6. I am personally really excited by the tech on display here. The idea that we can use natural language to accomplish tasks with a computer has been solely in the domain of SciFi. Siri is proof that we are slowly working our way towards an awesome future.

    I mean, I often found myself using voice control on my 3GS. For one example, it gets damn cold here in Canada, and being able to start music and make phone calls without taking the phone out of my pocket and freezing my thumb off is super convenient. Not to mention the ability to place calls without taking your eyes off the road.

    Siri, despite its current limitations, expands this kind of utility. It is one method of interacting with the phone, but not the only one. Sometimes talking commands at your phone is a dumb idea, but I like to think about all the possible situations in which a new tech might be useful. What about people with limited physical mobility? Now they can perform complex conversions, web searches, write emails, and other stuff with minimum hassle.

  7. I am really really disappointed of cynical-c….
    for real: that s cheapest advertising (with Bill Hicks: “seriously kill yourself”-
    “you’re another whore in the capitalist gang bang”!)
    Do you get a phone for this article? or is you re mind already programmed
    in advertising talk?
    Good day

  8. Great! Now I’ll get to listen to everyone talking to there phone in public, even when they aren’t actually talking to someone else. Of course in noisy areas, it will be people yelling memos and commands at their phone. Woohoo, you can save 7 seconds over typing it in… What exactly are you saving 7 seconds for? 7 more seconds of Angry Birds? With all the tech sold in the last decade that is supposed to save time, we should all have an extra 5 hours a day to do anything we wanted.
    To some this will be useful and a necessity, to most it will be more BS distractions while walking in public/driving. It should be marketed as “Crap you don’t really need but you’ll buy it anyway because it’s neat and it won’t actually save you any time or make your life any easier/better”.
    For the few people that are courteous enough to not talk (or yell) on their phone in public places, it will just be another tech annoyance. Oh and on the plus side, now you can text while driving! Driving is such a distraction from my phone anyways, now I can get to my accident 7 seconds faster.

      1. Ben, you gotta cut TMM some slack if only for the line, “Driving is such a distraction from my phone anyways, now I can get to my accident 7 seconds faster.”

    1. I never thought about all the texting idiots. It makes texting while driving so much easier to do, but they’ll still have to look at their phone (and not the road) to read the incoming texts. Unless it also so converts incoming texts to voice – which would actually be a phone conversation – this could be another road hazard.

  9. Siri seems pretty “meh” to me. I may have found it more impressive a few months ago, before I got an Android phone that does most of those things.
    I don’t mind Apple , I just expect more innovation from a company that has become so well known for it.

    1. Yeah – I just got an android which does all this too. I just talk at it and it can send texts, write notes, call people, find internet sites or places to go. I don’t have to yell or talk slowly, and it even recognizes my contacts’ names when I say them. Minimal typos and… as I found out today… it even will type emoticons if you say “smiley face”, it writes 🙂 . Who needs apple.

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