Tag Archives: iPhone

iPhone 5 – Sprint killer?

It is widely rumored that Apple will announce the iPhone 5 on September 12th with a September 21st launch.  The rumored new specifications of the phone:

  • 4G LTE  – this is largely a given at this point given that the iPad 3 has 4G and that the LTE networks are now more widespread.
  • Larger screen – taller, not wider, bringing the screen size to 4 inches and the aspect ratio to 16×9 from 4×3
  • Faster processor
  • More solid construction (“LiquidMetal” casing)
  • New dock connector – not an exciting feature and an annoyance to many.
  • NFC chip – this is a huge maybe, but IMHO would be a huge deal (per my prior post)

So what does this have to do with Sprint? Well, Sprint made a huge push to carry the iPhone and got it last fall with the iPhone 4S.  In order to get it, they were rumored to have committed to buy (and sell to consumers) $20 billion of new iPhones over 4 years, that’s 30 million iPhones.  Sprint has sold about 6 million iPhones so far. So only 24 million to go in the next 3 years….

Meanwhile, the biggest update with the iPhone 5 will be 4G LTE.  Sprint actually was the first big carrier in the US to build a 4G network. However they built it based on a technology called WiMax.  They eventually realized this was a losing standard and committed to build an LTE network earlier this year but this is years after Verizon and At&t started building their networks.

It seems very likely that the iPhone 5 will not have WiMax capability and therefore a Sprint iPhone 5 will only work on 4G in very limited cities compared to Verzion and At&t.  See the stats below:

  • Verizon 4G LTE – 371 Markets, 230 million people
  • AT&T 4G LTE – 47 Markets, 80 million people
  • Spint 4G LTE – 19  Markets,  unspecified coverage, but likely <30 million people

So, as you can see, Sprint is way behind here.  If, as anticipated,  consumers are excited about 4G LTE speeds, they’ll want to buy a Verizon or At&t phone (note that some have speculated At&t will suffer with their smaller footprint too).

If Sprint doesn’t capture a good share of iPhone 5 sales, they’ll be stuck with a contractual commitment, an expensive network rollout and more subscriber losses.   Meanwhile, T-Mobile is offering better pricing on unlimited data plans, which threatens Sprint Android  business.  I think the iPhone 5 launch could trigger the beginning of the end for Sprint, forcing them to sell the company, either to another carrier or a dark horse like Google or Apple (looking to disintermediate the carriers entirely).

Other opinions?

Sources:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57504223-37/lte-iphone-5-might-lure-at-t-users-to-verizon-says-analyst/

http://www.bgr.com/2011/10/03/sprint-guarantees-to-buy-over-20-billion-in-iphones-from-apple-launching-the-iphone-5-exclusively/

http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/26/sprint-q2-2012-earnings-net-loss-widens-to-1-4b-1-5m-iphones-sold/

http://www.autoomobile.com/news/sprint-iphone-5-plan/1002052/

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/255319/for_lte_network_slow_but_thorough_will_win_the_day_sprint_says.html

http://www.autoomobile.com/news/verizon-iphone-5-att-sprint/1001962/

http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/26/sprints-lte-rollout-stymied-by-uh-birds-as-it-plans-to-activate-four-new-markets/

http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/19/3094715/sprint-lte-speed-test-verizon-att-tmobile-comparison

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/gadgetreviews/the-state-of-4g-lte-verizon-sprint-and-at-and-t/29218

http://community.nasdaq.com/News/2012-08/more-lte-markets-for-sprint-analyst-blog.aspx?storyid=169170

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2409081,00.asp

http://bostinno.com/2012/09/03/iphone-5-release-date-apples-newest-iphone-is-days-away-here-is-everything-we-know-photos/#ss__218953_199403_3__ss

http://9to5mac.com/2012/06/25/new-iphone-prototypes-have-nfc-chips-and-antenna/

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57493323-37/sprint-sweetens-the-deal-for-iphone-4s/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203405504576603053795839250.html

http://www.phonearena.com/news/Sprints-current-deal-with-Apple-allows-it-to-sell-LTE-enabled-version-of-the-Apple-iPhone_id28487

http://seekingalpha.com/article/571281-sprint-and-apple-s-iphone-a-deal-from-hell

http://9to5mac.com/2012/08/29/sprint-expands-4g-lte-coverage-promises-rollout-to-more-markets-soon/

Recent Apple Announcements – Summary and Reaction

Below is a way overdue summary of Apple’s Announcements from their June 11, 2012 World Wide Developer’s Conference and my take on them.

First (since many people won’t want to read the long summary below), my takeaways:

  • For those wondering when the new iPhone will be released, I have no specific info, but the common thinking is still September/October.
  • It seems that Apple will continue to make their Mac operating system (OSX) and mobile operating system (iOS) more similar until eventually they merge into one. This is good for users that like the simplicity and usability of iOS but also means that Apple will exert more control over the Mac in terms of customization and developers (which is not good IMHO).
  • Especially in light of the above, Apple will continue to face a challenge regarding its native apps and how they allow for competition with other similar apps.Currently, in Mac OSX,one can reset the primary app for many categories to one that competes with Apple’s native app – e.g. Apple Mail vs. Microsoft Outlook or Safari vs. Google Chrome. While Apple has started to allow more competitors to their native apps in iOS (e.g. Sparrow for Mail and Chrome for browser), they cripple these apps in various ways:
    •  Competitive mail apps can’t take advantage of push technology or become the default app for mailto links.
    • Competitive browsers can’t be the default that opens when a link is clicked from another app.
    • Competitive map applications can’t be opened when an address is clicked.
  • Personally I think the native app treatment will hinder the progress of iOS and the iPhone going forward. Imagine if Mac users were more or less forced to use Apple Mail, Safari and iCal instead of GMAIL, Chrome and Google Calendar. I think you’d have a lot less Mac users.
  • Noticeably absent were any real updates to the MacPro (almost an irrelevant update announced after the keynote) and the iMac/Mac Mini. Perhaps these will be upgraded at a different date/different event. Or, it’s possible that Apple is now laser focused on their notebooks and mobile devices and won’t be rushing to upgrade their other hardware products. Maybe there’s a good reason for this (focus?), but there are still a lot of folks who buy and want to buy these other products.
  • Many of the most significant iOS6 updates will only be available to the latest devices. This will both be an incentive to get people to upgrade but also will irritate both users and developers.
  • I think that the Passbook app (described below) for the iPhone could be a pre-cursor to the release of an NFC chip for the new iPhone.  To me, this would be a huge deal.  I wrote more about NFC here.
  • Features that I continue to hope for in iOS that weren’t announced:
    • Profiles so different family members can share the same iPad in a more reasonable way (like accounts on a Mac/PC)
    • Offline maps (like Google announced for Android)

Ok, here’s the summary of the Apple announcements:

  • New Macbooks: Apple announced updated Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros. As usual – faster speeds and similar or lower prices. They also announced a new type of Macbook Pro that has a retina display and flash memory making it much lighter than a normal Macbook pro.
  • OSX Mountain Lion: Apple announced some more details about the new version of the Mac Operating System. Most of these announcements had to do with features that make OSX more similar to iOS and increase synchronization with iOS.
  • iPhone/iPad Operating System – iOS 6– will be released in the Fall:
    • Siri – Siri will expand to the iPad (only the newest iPad 3). Siri will also add the capability to search for restuarants (using Yelp) and sports scores/info. It will also allow you to send a Tweet. Lastly, Apple announced partenrships with some auto companies to include Siri in their cars.
    • Facebook – Apple announced a partnership with Facebook that will function like the current integration with Twitter. Users will be able to post to Facebook from many different applications. They will be able to “like” apps, songs and more. Facebook events and birthdays will be integrated in the iPhone calendar and Facebook friends’ photos and birthdays will be integrated into iPhone contacts.
    • Phone – Apple announced some interesting updates to the iPhone’s phone calling application. (yup, it still makes calls! 🙂 ). For incoming calls, one will now see 2 additional options besides accepting or declining. One can “reply with message”, sending a text message back to the caller with either a canned or specific message, e.g. “I’m in a meeting, will call you later.” or they can select an option to “remind me to call back later”. These reminders can be based on time or place (e.g. when I get home). The second feature for phone is a “do not disturb” mode. This can be set for nightime hours, for example with allowance given for specified favorites and for if someone tries to call repeatedly.
    • Facetime over cellular – Apple announced that Facetime will no longer be restricted to Wifi only. This will only be for iPhone 4S and above or iPad3 with cellular connection. Some have mentioned this could consume significant bandwidth/data and possibly cause issues for most users who are now on metered data plans.
    • iCloud photo sharing – As a substitute for the photo sharing that was a part of MobileMe, iOS6 will let users create and share albums from their phone or iPad using iCloud as the host. This will only work with iPhone 4S or greater or iPad 3 or greater.
    • Mail – i0S 6 will have some feature improvements for the native e-mail application including the ability to upload attachments from any e-mail and the ability to designate “VIP” e-mail senders.
    • Maps – As I wrote about before, this was widely anticipated. The new Maps app looks significatnly different. Here’s the summary:
      • no more Google
      • turn by turn directions! (only with iPhone 4S, iPad 3)
      • 3D Flyover mode (only with iPhone 4S, iPad 3)
      • Live traffic (this will rely both on some partner sources like Waze but mostly on data sourced from iPhone users once the app is public.
      • Some big differences with the current app from a negative standpoint (see this great Gizmodo post for screenshots):
    • Safari – Safari was updated to include tab synchroniztion (tabs from the Mac will optionally synch to the iPhone/iPad and vice-versa). Also, the Safari reading list will be available offline (like Instapaper and Pocket)
    • Passbook – This is a new native app from Apple that will manage gift cards, airplane passes, concert tickets, etc. App developers will be able to leverage this app to store these dynamic “passes”
    • App Store (more here)  The iOS App Store will have a brand new interface included updated iOS app pages with a lot more data. Also, users will no longer be taken to home screen when downloading new apps. As mentioned in the Facebook section, users will be able to like an App from within the appstore.
    • Restrictions– As I mentioned in each section, many of these new features will only be available to the newest devices – i.e. the iPhone 4S, iPad 3rd generation and the new iPhone which will likely be announced around the same time as the release of iOS6. Summary of restrictions:
      •  Flyover and turn-by-turn in Maps – iPhone 4S or later
      • Siri – iPad 3rd generation and iPhone4 S
      • Shared Photo Streams – iPhone4 or later or iPad2 or later
      • Facetime over cellular – iPhone4S or later or iPad3 with Cellular
      • VIP list and VIP and Flagged smart mailboxes – iPhone4 and iPad2 or later
      • Offline Reading lists – iPhone 4 and iPad2 or later

For those that made it this far, what do you think?

Some more links:

http://www.businessinsider.com/ios-6-key-features-2012-6?op=1
http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/11/ios-6-top-features/
http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/06/maps-in-ios-6-will-require-a5-processor-for-3d-flyover-navigation/
http://www.apple.com/ios/ios6/

Google preempts Apple with Maps upgrade announcement

I recently wrote about the expected change in the iPhone/iOS native Maps application.  Apple is expected to replace Google as the backend and upgrade the app to include 3D maps. This is all supposed to be announced at WWDC on Monday, June 11.

Today, Google preempted this announcement with updates of its own regarding is mobile maps app.  It specified that these updates were for the Maps app on Android but made reference to availability in the future on iOS. More coverage from Mashable, Ars Technica and Apple Insider.

The features they announced:

1. 3D Maps (unclear how this will compare to Apple’s 3D maps and how much coverage there will be to start)

2. Offline maps (this was one of my top requested features, yay!)

3. Better “streetview” for walking directions in places without roads like parks, mountains, etc. See the photo below for Google’s new rig to capture these views. This is kind of cool but seems like it will take some time to get coverage.

It’s not entirely clear when these features will be available or the specifics about how they work.  It seems that Google wanted to announce these before Monday so as to:

1. Steal Apple’s thunder

2. Soften the blow when it’s announced they’re no longer powering the native app on iOS.

Unfortunately for Google, they are not in the same league as Apple when it comes to PR, so most people will not even hear about today’s announcements while Apple’s announcement on Monday will likely be accompanied by a launch of other sexy products and features and will get covered ad nauseam.  In general, I think this competition is great. When Google and Apple have competed in mobile OS, desktop browsers and elsewhere, consumers have reaped the benefits of some of the best and quickest tech innovation ever. Bring on the maps!

The most important app on your iPhone is about to change

There have been persistent rumors over the past month or so that Apple will be replacing (upgrading?) the current Maps application with the new version of the iPhone operating system (iOS 6).  This has been expected for a while as Apple has purchased a variety of companies that work on parts of the map ecosystem. The screenshot above is a speculative screenshot of what the new app might look like in 3D view.

I’ve written before about how Maps may be the most important app on the iPhone.  Many people use the Maps app every day and it certainly has changed life for many folks – no more having to print directions or write them down before leaving the house on a drive, walk or trip. Despite any flaws or missing features, the Maps app has been a key part of the transformative experience of owning an iPhone.

Many people refer to the Maps app on the iPhone as Google maps.  It’s true that for now the underlying data comes from Google but like all the native apps on the iPhone, the app has always been built and maintained by Apple. Ever since Google launched Android and incurred Steve Jobs’s wrath, it was assumed that Apple would replace Google as their backend and it seems now is the time.

The rumors are that the app will receive a full overhaul – the backend will be owned by Apple and the visual look and feel will change to, particularly to include a 3D viewing option.

I will withhold judgement on whether or not the app will be an upgrade, but to me, the most important things that should be done to improve the functionality of the maps app are (I’ve written about these before):

1. Include turn-by-turn directions.  This means that rather than having to push “next”, the phone automatically tracks your progress and visually and orally provides the next set of instructions (just like your car’s GPS does).  It also corrects the directions automatically if you go off-route. Google’s app for Android does this well. The reason this used to be hard is due to licensing costs for using the underlying map data in this way. Google got around that by creating their own set of map data.

2. Include an option to download offline versions of maps for specified metro areas.  The GPS doesn’t require the cellular network to work and the app could be fully functional with offline maps. This would serve 2 functions:

  • Maps would load when network service is slow or unavailable (e.g. subway underground). There is nothing more frustrating than being lost and late to a meeting and watching a map try to load in the background.
  • When roaming outside one’s core country, one could use the maps app to navigate in an unknown city without paying exorbitant data roaming charges.
I’m not convinced that Apple will build an app that has great features and functionality vs. just more interesting design and views (e.g. 3D). So, I  hope that once Apple replaces Google from its backend that Apple approves a native Google Maps app for the app store. I also hope that Google builds and submits such an app that’s as good or better than their Android Maps app. Real competition for an app that is as core as Maps would be very healthy.

Blackberry’s Last Stand?

RIM previewed the Blackberry  10 yesterday.  I won’t talk  about the specifics of the phone, but a couple of things struck me.

1. Even RIM doesn’t seem convinced that they’ve figured things out.  The executives just don’t sound all that convinced.  Also,  look at the body language in the image below. Does Thorsten Heins (the CEO of RIM) seem excited for this launch?  Compare that to Steve Jobs when he launched iPhones.

2. I think RIM had two choices recently  when deciding how to fight back against iPhone/Android.   One was to continue to release phones with physical keyboards and emphasize that they were the best mobile device for creating content.  Build the best e-mail clients/service that one could imagine, recruit developers to build document creation apps, blogging apps, etc.  In addition, continue to develop security solutions that appeal to businesses. While these wouldn’t have enabled them to beat Apple or Android, IMHO it could have enabled them to maintain a solid player in specific niches.

A second choice would have been to embrace either Android or Windows Phone as an OS. This wouldn’t have been an easy road, but at least they wouldn’t have had such a hard job to convince developers to build apps for their platform.

A third option would have been some combination of those two. As it stands, RIM’s strategy will make for a major uphill battle.  I think the path that they have chosen (eliminate physical keyboards and stick with their own OS) virtually ensures their failure.

I sometimes have nostalgia for my old blackberries but mostly I pity the folks that still have to carry them or [perhaps even more] the people that choose to.  The modern business environment means that no matter how well-established your business is, if you stop innovating/competing, you can be disrupted in 5 years or less.

BlackBerry’s Last Chance

BlackBerry’s executives seem to have no idea what the future holds, one of it’s cofounders completely severs ties, and the strategic retreat they have in mind may be too late. Read More RIM President and CEO Thorsten Heins at the BlackBerry World 2012 General Session. Image: Research In Motion Today is the launch of BlackBerry World .

We need this to understand how you use our service - you can take it out if you like. Cheers, your Blogspire team.

via: www.portfolio.com

 

iOS 5: What’s Great, What’s Not and What’s Missing

I recently wrote some thoughts about my new iPhone 4S. As I said, other than Siri though, the main aspects of my new phone are all available to iPhone4 owners through iOS 5 .

How do you get iOS 5 on your phone?  Just connect your iPhone/device to your computer and it will prompt you to download and install the new operating system.  It will remind you to do a back-up first which is a good idea.

Ok, so here are my thoughts re: iOS 5, including some hidden features.

What’s Great:

1. iMessage

Blackberry converts who have been missing BBM will be happy with iMessage. Integrated into the regular text messaging (SMS) app, iMessage lets you message other iPhone owners for free (no SMS fees).  It also shows you when these messages are delivered and when someone is typing a reply.  The messages also work over wifi.  This means you can use iMessage with an iPad or an iPod touch also.  This is a better messaging experience and it’s free, as it should be.  Many folks will now be able to downgrade their messaging plans and save some monthly fees.

Another minor thing that is cool is that you can now hide the keyboard in the messaging app by “pulling” it down and out of the way.

2. Notifications

Apple completely overhauled the way notifications work in iOS 5.  The biggest difference is that there is now a “curtain” of notifications that you can pull down to see all your recent notifications segmented by application.  You can customize notification types in settings.  This new system makes notifications a lot more useful, like a more instant type of alert e-mails for your phone.

3. Camera/photos

Quicker access to the camera- Many folks have started to use their phone’s camera as a primary photo-taking device.  But opening the camera app took too long. Apple now lets you access the camera even when your phone is locked. Simply double click the home button. On the bottom right of the screen, you’ll now see a camera icon. Click it and the camera app opens right up.

Additionally, you can now take a photo by pressing either of the volume buttons. This makes it a lot less awkward to take a photo.

The photo app now also lets you edit photos on your phone and sort photos into separate albums, helpful to make sense of the hundreds of photos you have unsorted on your phone.

4. Reader

I think this is very cool.  When you load any website in the Safari browser, you’ll see a “reader” button appear in the website address bar after the site is done loading. If you click that button, the article/text on the page will be reformatted to a very clean and readable format. It’s very much like the web tool Readability for those of you that know it.

There’s a related feature called Reading list that lets you save articles/items to read later. I already use an awesome service/app to do this called Instapaper and don’t plan to switch. I predict that Instapaper will continue to out-innovate on a focused product like this.

5. iCloud (in theory)

The concept of iCloud is fantastic, keeping things in sync across devices and backing up your data in the process.  So far though, I’ve found it complicated to understand/use and challenging in that certain devices don’t work with iCloud, specifically Macs not running Lion.

Additionally, iCloud “replaced” MobileMe which is fine but two services that were not replaced are MobileMe’s photo gallery and  web hosting. Strange/frustrating that Apple didn’t offer a migration path for these, particuarly photos which was the best option out there IMHO.

6. Keyboard “shortcuts”

This is a minor feature, but very compelling for some, e.g. my friend David. Some ex-Blackberry users will remember this feature, sometimes called text expansion. Basically you can create short abbreviations that will expand into full phrases. This is good for long phrases that you constantly find yourself retyping. See here for instructions on how to create these and some suggested ones to start with. Examples from Lifehacker include:

  • EML -> your@emailaddress.com, so you never need to type your email when sending a message to yourself or sharing it with someone else.
  • PHN -> your phone number, so you can easily share your phone number without the need to type it or even remember it.
  • FMIN -> I’ll be there in five minutes, for when you want to text someone that you’re five minutes away but only have a few moments to type it.

Note, David can tell you that you must be careful to make the shortcuts something you wouldn’t otherwise type like these abbreviations vs. actual words which can create confusing texts/emails.

7. Calendar landscape view

The calendar on iPhone and iPad are improved.  On the iPhone, try turning the screen to lanscape and you’ll see a week view. The iPad now includes a Year view.

8. Alternate routes in Maps

The map app now shows you alternate routes when showing directions. This will be welcome to those who frequently use it for navigation in traffic-prone cities.

9. Custom vibrations & ringtones

You can now create custom vibrations for specific contacts.  Those who keep their phone on vibrate most of the time will appreciate that. You can know who called or texted before taking the phone out of your pocket.  You can now more easily create custom ringtones and assign them to SMS or app alerts in addition to just phone calls. See these links for more/how-to:

Custom vibrations

Custom ringtones

iPad

1. Browser tabs

The iPad’s Safari browser now has  real tabs, more like the browser you likely use on your computer vs. separate “tabs”.  Try it out to see what I mean.

2. Separation of keyboard

This is quite cool, I think.  A problem with the iPad keyboard has been that it’s hard to type with 2 hands and hold the iPad at the same time. Now, using a keyboard gesture, you can pinch the keyboard apart in the middle. The smaller halves are then closer to each hand that is holding the device, so you can thumb out a message. It works in portrait or landscape.

3. Gestures  for iPad2

If you have an iPad2, you can use new 4 and 5 fingered gestures.  See here for more.

What’s Not Great:

1. Wireless Sync

This is a nice concept, but its execution leaves me underwhelmed.  You can now synch your iPhone to your computer wirelessly.  In order to do that though, you need to have your computer on (on the same wifi network), iTunes open and your phone plugged into a power outlet. This is only a minor improvement over having it directly connected. Sure, you can synch from another room, but having to have it plugged in is a  bummer. And iTunes is not an app I like to keep running.  Lastly, it seems to me that iCloud should take care of all of this, making this extra synching confusing.

2. Reminders

This is a new default to-do/reminders app from Apple. Maybe it’s great, but it seems that being so late to the game is kind of silly. There are hundreds, if not thousands of these apps in the store. Why would Apple suddenly release a native one?

3. More things to accidentally select

As Apple adds cool features like the camera selection from the lock screen and Siri, there are less places to put them and less key shortcuts to access them.  I’ve found myself constantly invoking Siri by accident, just trying to hit the home key.  And on the keyboard, the Siri dictation button shrinks the rest of the keyboard and makes me much more likely to hit it by mistake.

What’s Missing:

1. Better Maps App

There was a minor improvement to Apple’s maps app (powered by Google) as mentioned above regarding alternate routes. However, it seems clear to me that the bad blood between Apple and Google has hindered updates to this app. The Google Maps app for Android has far surpassed Apple’s app. Turn-by-turn directions would be a major improvement as well as speedier performance and an option to download offline maps for particular cities (great for no/slow network access and international travel without roaming).

2. Swype

Others have mentioned this, but the Swype keyboard is one of the most loved available features/apps on Android.  See more here, but basically Swype is a quicker way to type on a touchscreen keyboard. Apple should either license or buy this technology.

3. Better e-mail search

GMAIL has recently launched their own native iPhone app, although it was recently pulled from the store to address bugs. Perhaps this will motivate Apple to improve its mail app.  Searching mail “on the server” has never really worked. This is a key and necessary function for any e-mail service IMHO.

You can read more about all the new iOS features at Apple’s site here.

What do you think? Did I get it right? Miss any? Stay tuned for my next post on my recommended iPhone/iPad apps.

The S in iPhone 4S stands for…

These are my impressions so far of the iPhone 4S . I’ll be writing a separate post about my impressions of iOS5.

Brand-new iPhone 4S

Image by Yoshikazu Takada via Flickr

Back to the title. So what does the S in iPhone 4S stand for?

S is for Speed – Well, there’s a faster processor and the camera is faster to take photos but it doesn’t feel blazingly faster than the iPhone 4. Those upgrading from older devices will definitely notice a difference though. Also, if you get a 4S on At&t (see more below), you’ll see faster data speeds, but not on any other carrier.

S is for Sucky Battery Life – for some minority of users (myself unfortunately included), it seems that there’s some software bug causing sub-optimal battery life. Apple has announced that they’ll be putting out a new release in a few weeks to fix these bugs. It seems to be specifically due to something that happens when restoring from an older back-up. I am hopeful that a software fix/patch will fix this in the next few weeks. In the meantime I’ve changed a lot of settings to manage for now.  This doesn’t seem to be affecting most people.

S is for Siri (not for Speech)- Aside from the aforementioned relatively minor performance gains, the main difference the iPhone 4S brings is Siri.  Siri is a personal assistant that was developed by a company of the same name acquired by Apple.  Conjecture is that Siri requires a lot of processor power and hence only (for now) works on the iPhone 4S.  Contrary to popular understanding, what makes Siri remarkable is not speech recognition.  Siri uses the same state-of-the-art speech recognition (from Nuance) that most companies use these days. What makes Siri unique is its artificial intelligence. Siri understands natural language commands and questions.  This is what’s remarkable, you can speak to it like you would a real person and it understands what you mean an astounding percentage of the time. To clarify what I mean, speech recognition simply translates what you say to text.  Natural Language Processing actually interprets that text to try to figure out what you mean based on context, idioms and more.

Siri’s utility is limited to a few specific apps for now (mail, weather , stocks, SMS, Yelp, Wolfram Alpha, send a search to Safari) but I’m sure it will get opened up to other apps soon.  It’s quite an amazing demonstration of technology but I’m not sure it will become part of my daily or weekly use of the phone just yet.  I’m still not used to using voice to interact with my devices.  The transcription is pretty great though for writing quick text messages or emails, particularly for the car.

S is for Service – this is really what it means just for me, as this is why I bought the phone.  I switched from At&t to Verizon and the difference in service is nothing short of astounding.  I can make calls anywhere and they don’t get dropped. I get data access in parts of NYC where I never would have tried with the iPhone4.  Unfortunately Verizon has their own issues, namely poor customer service, high prices and like all carriers, hidden fees and complex plans. The availability of the 4S on Sprint gives another option for those eager for a working device in NY or SF. On that note, for those folks, S is for Sprint.

S is for Steve Jobs – A lot of folks made this connection.  The unfortunate timing of the device’s launch before Steve’s passing will connect it for many people to Steve (even if it’s not the quintessential representation of the stuff he built or even a device he personally worked on very much).  I am late to the game to write about Steve so I will just reiterate that he was a truly rare individual that disrupted so many different industries: technology, computing, telephony, music, film and retail.  We need heroes in our cynical era and Steve was a hero, despite many flaws.

What do you think it stands for? Do you have one, like it?