WSJ’s Walt Mossberg reviews Apple iPhone 4S: Siri artificial-intelligence has to be tried to be believed

“Sometimes, as we all know, looks can be deceiving. While Apple’s latest iPhone doesn’t look different, and may not be the kind of blockbuster people expect from the late Steve Jobs’s company, it thinks different, to quote one of Apple’s old ad slogans,” Walter S. Mossberg reports for AInside its familiar-looking body there lurks a nascent artificial-intelligence system that has to be tried to be believed.”

“I’ve been testing the 4S for about a week to see how it differs from the previous model,” Mossberg reports. “I also evaluated the key features added by the new operating system, called iOS 5, including a new, free text-messaging service; deep integration with Twitter; and the ability to edit photos right on the phone. I focused on the handful of new features unique to the 4S, notably the new voice-controlled artificial-intelligence system called Siri; a brilliant new camera for stills and videos; and faster, 4G-class download speeds. The iPhone is now available from Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, but I tested the AT&T version, because it is the only one which offers the faster download speeds.”

Mossberg reports, “The standout feature, not available in other iPhones, or in any other phone I’ve seen, is Siri. It answers questions and provides information using natural language and an intelligent understanding, not just of words, but of context and colloquial phrasing… It offers too much to fully describe here, but it isn’t a simple voice-command system. It understands a wide variety of ways to ask a question, grasps the context, and returns useful information in a friendly way, either audibly or by displaying results on the screen. It learns your voice as it goes along.”

Much more in the full review here.

Related articles:
USA Today’s Baig reviews iPhone 4S: Apple takes world’s finest smartphone to even loftier heights – October 12, 2011
NY Times’ Pogue reviews Apple iPhone 4S: Conceals sheer, mind-blowing magic – October 12, 2011


    1. If the naysayers are fandroids, they will all continue to parrot how “android had this for over a year now…”.

      Much like everything else between iOS and Android, no fandroid has ever been capable of grasping the difference between a feature list bullet point and a truly usable, intuitive, fast and simple functionality.

      Yesterday, there was this one fandroid who was quick to submit his own “rebuttal” YouTube video of his little Samsung Galaxy 2 phone doing some basic voice commands (“What is the weather like?”; “Wake me up at 7!”), which is essentially using ordinary speech recognition, coupled with Google’s search results. The device was sloooow to begin with, but he never actually got it to demonstrate the kind of intelligent conversation you can have with Siri (because he can’t do it).

      There is really no point in engaging fandroids into a debate. They say that Apple fans are zealots; anyone who ever met a fandroid knows what is the true meaning of the word ‘zealot’.

  1. Years ago, I wanted to make bumper stickers, “SJ for president.’ He actually would have done a great job I think – or would it be a waste of talent? Whatever, I so thoroughly enjoy using devices that WORK so well, with new features. Apple, keep it up.

    1. I think SJ made a great leader but would not have been right for US president. The US president has too little power I think for Steve’s liking. Steve’s best quality as a leader was being a dictator, which works well in a company but not as well in political office.

  2. It is pretty clear that Apple is in a release cycle that coincides with the mandatory 2 year contracts. It makes sense to hold off on a complete design change for 2 years, to get those ready for a re-up. But they can’t wait that long for improvements, so the “off-year” improvements occur under the hood.

    I, for one, am glad I am on the “s” end of the cycle. My 4s arrives on Friday.

    1. I’m on the upgrade cycle that coincides with the “S” model. I’m really happy about this because everyone gets to beta test all the bugs out of the new model and when the “S” model comes out, it’s all perfected. I’m upgrading from a 3GS to a 4S on Friday. When the iPhone 5 (or maybe it will be called iPhone 6) comes out, I’ll gladly wait and let everyone else work out the bugs and I’ll upgrade when the iPhone 5S (6S) comes out.

  3. Yes, they are no fools. The contract/release date is real. I am under strict instructions from Mrs. JPman that I buy every OTHER iPhone release. I’ve gone 1, 3Gs now 4S. I (and my wallet) are pretty happy about that, really. If you wanted the newest every time it came out, you’d have to cancel contracts and pay through the nose every single year. With two years, my AppleCare ensures that I always have a perfectly working phone and it’s never that far behind the times. 2 Years is the usual contract length AND the length of time that applecare will sort your phone out for you. I only ever had to visit the apple store with a problem once, my 3G had a problem with the sound. I walked in, showed it to them, they looked at it twice and then handed me a BRAND NEW phone to walk out with and apologized for my inconvenience. Like to see ANY android merchants do that. My loyalty is fixed.

    1. Must be nice in some countries (IE: Canada \ Rogers) our carriers hold us to a 3 year term, If I want to upgrade from the 4 to 4S I have to pay a $340 fee and pay an extra $55 for the Phone. I know someone who is on an iPhone 3G and they want $150 early fee (6 Months left). I would like to just buy the phone without a contract but they don’t reduce the monthly bill so why bother.

      1. Thats lame. Here in the US, AT&T has a 2 year contract but they let you upgrade every 18 months (some times sooner). Rogers should do something like that because it ensures people get locked into another contract. If I was a telco, the scariest thing for me would be people’s contract’s ending before they’d had gotten another phone and renewed it.

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