Is Siri a Serious Enhancement to the iPhone 4S?

Seeking superior Siri sensation? Sincerely serious Siri specialists scrutinize services so sweating squares see sense!

Apple’s current television advertising campaign shows us smiling, tech-savvy people going about their daily iPhone 4S-enriched lives made easier by utilizing the new voice-interactive Siri virtual assistant. Is Siri all it’s cracked up to be, an utter failure, or somewhere in between? New technology always comes with a learning curve, and some will doubtless be daunted by encountered hurdles while others will accept and adapt to these challenges.

LockerGnome community member Kyle Polansky writes:

Hi guys, I just had a quick question about Siri.

In Apple’s Siri video, it appears that you can use this feature as part of the OS without having to open up a traditional application. You can use it while running (which I do a lot of), in the car, or while doing various other tasks.

However, I was wondering if you can really use Siri with this amount of ease. It would seem logical that you would have to unlock your phone every time you would like to say a voice command.

If this isn’t the case, then would someone be able to pick up your phone, and prank call everyone in your address book, or delete important information on your phone? This seems like a huge security bug, but otherwise it takes the ease out of using this voice activated technology.

Is Siri a Serious Enhancement to the iPhone 4S?While many in the tech media field have jumped on the bandwagon to dismiss Apple’s iPhone 4S as being more of a ho-hum, incremental improvement rather than a truly awe-inspiring upgrade from the iPhone 4, we’ve touched upon how the overall consensus of the LockerGnome staff is that the iPhone 4S actually has a lot more to offer than easily discerned at first glimpse. Aside from having a much better camera (here’s a side-by-side comparison of iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 4S camera quality) and the A4 to a dual core A5 processor, the introduction of virtual assistant Siri is actually a pretty big deal.

As Kyle mentions above, there seem to be some obvious problems that could arise with the way that Siri is able to function without its host iPhone 4S being unlocked, but we address Siri security concerns in another video (as well as how to maximize battery life in iOS 5). In summary: Siri (and your iPhone 4S) can be exactly as secure and easy to use as you want it to be. While people who have a beef with the famously proprietary Apple will gleefully point out that a lot of the settings available on its devices aren’t easily changed by even the savviest of users, this isn’t one of those cases.

“It’s more difficult to remember that you have a new feature, sometimes, than it is to even use that new feature — whatever the platform happens to be.” — Chris Pirillo, 2011

What the average user might find (as Chris Pirillo mentions in the video above) is that the biggest obstacle to making use of Siri is simply remembering that it’s there and getting accustomed to using it. Many with access to Siri may just continue going about their lives Siri-free because they’ve thus far done just fine without it. Looking up something by typing it into Google may take the same amount of time as it would to have Siri find the answer; initially, it may even take longer as Siri adapts to the way you say certain words and phrases, and not being perfect, it may misinterpret something you say and go off in search of something random and unhelpful. Sure, you might be saying “I wish for a tasty dish,” but Siri might hear it as “I squish foreign pastry fish.” (And, let’s be honest, squished pastry fish — whether foreign or domestic — really doesn’t do anyone any good).

You getting used to Siri and Siri getting used to you is definitely a process of adjustment. But isn’t this pretty much the case with almost any new technology? My mother, for example, can’t be bothered to use a computer (and couldn’t be bothered to use the electric typewriter that sat idle in our house before I was allowed to play with it) because she’s just never liked using keyboards. She scribbles everything down on little scraps of notebook paper with pencils or ballpoint pens, and this is the system that’s worked best for her over the course of her life. I suspect that if I tried to get her to use an iPad or an iPhone, she’d just wonder why I was going through the trouble of trying to get her to spend more time to complete certain tasks when she already has a way of doing things that is efficient enough for her purposes. Unless an interface holds a user’s interest, it can be a safe assumption that it’s going to go unused and is, therefore, useless to its intended audience.

Driving a car probably wasn’t easy the first time you did it; its advantages in speed over travel across town on a bicycle probably weren’t apparent if you factored in the potential for death-dealing, vehicle-wrecking experiences along the way. But you practiced hard with supervision and got better at it, so such show stoppers became less inevitable. Likewise, if you do get to the point where using Siri becomes second nature in helping with the accomplishment of your daily tasks, you’ll likely trumpet its power in providing convenience over its ability to be a hindrance. Even still, you’d be hard-pressed to call it perfect. As people around the Internet — such as Ranjit Nagubandi — remind us, Siri “is just a beta and doesn’t work at all like we see in advert[s]. It’s just in developing stages,” while AppleInsider reports that Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, has testified to the US Senate’s antitrust subcommittee that Siri is a clear threat to his company’s livelihood by being a “significant development” in search.

So is Siri a hapless beta in search of self, or an imminent threat to The (Google) Empire? That’s a question probably best answered by you, the users out there. If you’ve ever gotten assistance from iPhone 4S’ Siri virtual assistant, have you found it to be a genuine help toward getting things done efficiently (better than by using traditional search engines), or a hair-pulling, face-palming exercise in futility? Drop us a line and let us know.

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Our resident "Bob" (pictured here through the lens of photographer Jason DeFillippo) is in love with a woman who talks to animals. He has a fondness for belting out songs about seafaring and whiskey (arguably inappropriate in most social situations). He's arm-wrestled robots and won. He was born in a lighthouse on the storm-tossed shores of an island that has since been washed away and forgotten, so he's technically a citizen of nowhere. He's never killed in anger. He once underwent therapy for having an alien in his face, but he assures us that he's now feeling "much better." Fogarty also claims that he was once marooned along a tiny archipelago and survived for months using only his wits and a machete, but we find that a little hard to believe.