iPhone 4S reviews: Software, Siri make all the difference

October 12, 2011

The first round of iPhone 4S reviews are in, and responses are overwhelmingly positive, especially n regards to the phone’s processing power and personal assistant application, called Siri. Hayley Tsukayama has a roundup of the reviews:

Wall Street Journal,Walt Mossberg: “The iPhone 4S is one of Apple’s less dramatic updates, but, when combined with the Siri, iOS 5 and iCloud features, it presents an attractive new offering to smartphone users. Some may be content to skip the new hardware and just enjoy the software and cloud features with older models. But those buying the phone will likely be happy with it.”

New York Times, David Pogue: “Apple updates iOS and the iPhone only once a year. So Apple had a lot of catching up to do, even some leapfrogging. There are some rough spots here and there; for example, every now and then the 4S’s camera app gets stuck on its startup screen. And while the battery still gets you through one full day, standby time is shorter than before (200 hours versus 300). But over all, Apple has done an excellent job.”

Macworld, Jason Snell: “The iPhone 4S has speed, a great camera, some cool voice-recognition features, and the same beautiful industrial design that was introduced in the iPhone 4. It’s destined to be immensely popular.”

Wired, Brian X. Chen: “Though these are all nice improvements, the antenna, camera and processor upgrades are minor compared to the addition of Siri. The previous iPhone 4 already took great pictures for a phone, the antenna was OK (despite the notorious grip-of-death design flaw), and it was already plenty fast. Siri is the fancy bow on the package that makes this a sharp upgrade overall.”

Daring Fireball, John Gruber: “I found it extremely fun to explore Siri — primarily because so many of the things I tried actually worked. It’s a completely different interface for interacting with your iPhone. You’re not driving or commanding the existing iPhone interface with commands. There is no syntax to memorize. You’re just, well, talking to your iPhone.”

Bloomberg, Rich Jaroslovsky: “With the iPhone’s continuing advantage in number of apps (500,000 and counting), its arrival on the Sprint network and its ability to function as a world phone, the 4S doesn’t leave many holes for the competition to plug.”

Joshua Topolsky wrote a full iPhone 4S review for the Washington Post, here is an excerpt:

The first time you see Apple’s highly anticipated iPhone 4S, you might be a little surprised. That surprise will come from the fact that it looks nearly identical to last year’s sleek metal-and-glass iPhone 4.

But the hardware is only half the story. The introduction of the iPhone 4S marks the debut of Apple’s newest mobile operating system, iOS 5. The new OS is not only loaded with some important improvements — from how notifications about missed calls and other messages are displayed to how your device connects to your computer — it also introduces an innovative, voice-activated “intelligent assistant” named Siri. This is arguably one of the most meaningful updates to the iPhone we’ve ever seen.

Siri is one of the more novel applications Apple has produced. Utilizing a combination of voice recognition, logic and text-to-speech, the software can interpret casual requests and follow conversations. With Siri, you can ask to get directions, send text messages, schedule reminders or appointments, get suggestions on where to eat, and lots more. Siri can even answer not-so-basic questions such as,“Who wrote ‘Jane Eyre’?”

Siri understands what you’re saying and the context in which you’re saying it. The software also learns things about you and the people you communicate with.

The crazy thing about Siri is that it works — at least most of the time — better than you’d expect. It understands and responds to you in a way that’s so natural it can sometimes be unsettling. The software even has a good sense of humor.

That’s not to say Siri is without issues. Sometimes it misunderstands you or can take too much time to get answers to your questions because it has to connect to Apple’s servers for data.

Still, while Siri may not be finished yet, it acts like something straight out of a science-fiction story.

More from The Washington Post

Apple fans: Where is the iPhone 5?

Everything you need to know about the iPhone 4S

User poll: Does the iPhone 4S live up to the hype?

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