"S" stands for "Siri"

October 05, 2011

Well, you all know it by now: Apple unveiled the new iPhone 4S yesterday, along with mild updates to their iPod line. They also set a specific date for the official rollout of iCloud and iOS 5: October 12.

Also interesting about yesterday’s keynote was that somehow, I managed to get each and every single one of my predictions wrong. That’s got to be difficult. It certainly gave me a greater appreciation for the people that make these sorts of predictions for a living, and get them right most of the times. In retrospective, I probably should have called them “wishful thoughts” instead of predictions but hey, at least it was fun to try.

Apart from my very well deserved claim chowder, I’m actually pretty excited about yesterday’s announcements, and not disappointed at all. The iPod refreshments were really just minor changes, mostly on the software end, but there was no need for drastic improvements there. The iPhone, however, is a different story. I think the iPhone 4S will be an excellent follow-up to the iPhone 4. It’s got just the right hardware improvements to keep it leading the industry, and I’ve always loved the design of the iPhone 4, so I didn’t feel they needed to change it in the first place. And boy, that sweet new camera. I’m dying to try it. I understand that some people were expecting bigger news, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel every year.

On another note, the new iPhone comes with a built-in personal assistant, which is just unreal. The Siri voice recognition software is amazing. That was clearly the most exciting moment of the entire event, and probably the only thing we will still remember 5 or 10 years from now. It is another example of what Apple does best: they take a technology that’s been around for some time, and they make it usable for everybody. Some writers, like Paul Miller from This is my Next, are already weighing in on the possible implications of such a service, especially for people with disabilities: as a Biomedical Engineer, the possibilities of integration that Siri provides are really exciting.

The only thing I found surprising is that there was no new Apple TV. This seemed like a no-brainer to me, but perhaps Apple just couldn’t focus on everything at once, and the Apple TV got pushed back. After all, it is “just a hobby”. I still think we will see an A5-equipped Apple TV soon, but maybe it’s not important enough to mention on a high-profile event like yesterday’s. Or maybe they’re just making A5 chips as fast as they can, and they still can’t make them fast enough to put it into all of their products. Between the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2, those are a lot of chips.

Then there’s the keynote itself. The presenters were all correct, and for the most part Steve’s absence wasn’t noticed too much. The structure of the presentation was the same as the last few times: a general presenter (Cook) introducing the global areas, and then the responsible for each team (Forstall, Schiller, etc.) diving into the technical details. Hey, that’s one prediction I didn’t get totally wrong. Yay me. What I didn’t like was the pace. The first part of the keynote was just a rehash of the features that were announced at WWDC, and apart from a couple minor new apps, nothing new was introduced there. I think they should just skip that part, or make it as brief as possible.

And that was pretty much it. Apple continues to steadily improve all of their devices while maintaining or slightly reducing prices across the board. It’s a winning formula, so why change it? They also continue the naming convention they introduced with the iPhone 3G S, which I don’t particularly like, but maybe this time there’s a significant change there. If the “S” on the iPhone 3G S stood for “speed”, I don’t think there’s any doubt that this time around, “S” stands for “Siri”.