100770 The Impact of Siri David Averbach iPhone Life 1528-5456 2012-01-04 January-February 2012 4 1 9 iOS Devices Siri Utilities iPad iPhone iPod Touch

imageIn the weeks and months leading up to Apple’s announcement, speculation about the next iPhone reached a fever pitch. It seemed like a new rumor emerged every day. There were whispers of a thinner iPhone 5, with a bigger screen and an aluminum back, among others. The always-secretive Apple was even more tightlipped than usual.

By the time Apple actually announced the iPhone 4S, so much buzz had been built up around the new iPhone, that many fans and experts saw the announcement as a disappointment. Why would Apple delay their normal June announcement for three months just to announce a minor upgrade? Should you really upgrade now when the iPhone 5 will almost certainly come out next year?

While I was also hoping for an iPhone 5, I think many critics are being very shortsighted by trashing the iPhone 4S. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to see an iPhone 5 as much as next guy (or gal), but I think the introduction of Siri is going to prove much more significant than most people are realizing. And I think my iPhone 4 is still as beautiful as the day we met; I never look at it and think, "I wish this screen size was .5 inches bigger (when measured diagonally)."

"Apple’s biggest mistake was failing to manage our expectations."

Apple’s biggest mistake was failing to manage our expectations. Had Apple announced the iPhone 4S at WWDC in June, like they had initially planned, no one would have been disappointed. In June, everyone expected a 4S. But when Apple made us wait until October, everyone got excited imagining the possibilities. The truth ended up being much less romantic: Apple simply delayed due to supply chain issues caused by the tsunami. Apple should not have been so secretive about what turned out to be a smaller than expected upgrade.

When I look back at the first iPhone announcement, the thing that jumps out at me isn’t how beautiful the phone was. The original iPhone was a beautiful phone, but so was the Motorola Razr. The thing that made the iPhone so revolutionary was its touchscreen and user interface. Apple’s strength has always been their software. The hardware is beautiful, but it’s ultimately the software that makes Apple products unique. As Jobs was fond of saying, “They just work.”

As we rely on our phones more and more, the tiny screen real estate will limit us. As anyone who has ever tried to send an email from their phone knows, you’re only as productive as the speed of your thumbs. Siri completely eliminates this limitation by allowing you to simply dictate your commands. True, Apple has had voice recognition (if you can call it that) since the 3GS, but I’m not sure whose voice it was supposed to recognize because it certainly didn’t recognize mine. The Siri app has been available on the iPhone for a while now, and Android already has voice to text. But nobody has ever integrated voice recognition as a way of navigating your phone before.

imageWith Siri, Apple has once again redefined how we interact with our devices. The integration of Siri is the biggest innovation in the iPhone since the touchscreen. What has always made the iPhone so successful is how intuitive it is to use. Being able to use voice commands to navigate your phone takes ease-of-use to the next level.

Sure, having a sleeker phone would have been nice, but looks are constantly changing. The voice recognition is a breakthrough in usability. When we look back at this announcement three years from now, we won’t be thinking about the form factor of the 4S, we will be remember October 4th, 2011 as the day Apple introduced voice recognition as a way of navigating your phone.