No doubt you’ve already heard of Siri, the voice control software that Apple is launching with the iPhone 4S. If you are late to the part, recap here.
Apple is billing Siri not as “voice-control” but as a personal assistant that will perform tasks for you. The press is already lauding its impressive functionality. But how has Apple managed to make such a big splash over a feature that Android has had for some time now?
To start, marketing has a lot to do with it. While Android bills voice-control (VC)l as just that — a way to control your phone with your voice — Apple promotes Siri as an entity that will help you get things done. Apple has given their iOS voice control a person’s name. Simply by calling it “Siri” (notice how Apple — and thus the press — always spell it as though it’s a proper noun), Apple has immediately made it more personal and more human — you’ll see the word ‘assistant’ thrown around a lot in stories about Siri (not excluding this one). Even if the abilities of Siri and Android’s VC were identical, Siri would become the colloquialism for voice-control on a phone, the same way that mainstreamers, who don’t know the difference, call any digital audio player an iPod.
That’s if the abilities of Siri and Android’s VC were the same. At a base level, there’s no fundamental difference between Siri and Android VC, both convert sound into meaning and perform some function based on what you’ve said. But Siri feels more human because of the breadth of its understanding. [See there I go, talking about Siri as if it were an entity and not a thing. TouchÃ©, Apple]. Siri will see high usage because the user doesn’t need to look through a list of things they are allowed to say, or pay attention to the order that they need to be said. Apple has ensured that Siri can understand such a range of input that there’s no need to think first about what you are asking it. Again, this makes Siri far more human than Android VC; you speak to Siri like a person, with no need to pause to formulate your question in a special computer-readable way. This means that there is a highly likelyhood that anyone who hasn’t used Siri before could ask it a question and get a good response, making it inherently more intuitive than Android VC. That’s the goal anyway.
Once Apple frees Siri from it’s iPhone 4S jail (either on to older, or newer devices), expect it to become a household name, and expect lots of existing voice-control software to be ‘reborn’ with human names.