Last Friday I was lucky enough to snap up a the latest addition to Apple’s gadget family – the iPhone 4S (16GB, white, if you must know).

I’m a self confessed Apple junkie, I have been ever since I inherited my first Mac back at the tender age of 13. I’ve never looked back and probably never will.

I’ve also been a loyal iPhone user pretty much since day one and have largely been impressed with the progression in functionality and features over the years. However, I must admit I was mildly disappointed when Apple announced, or didn’t announce the iPhone 5, but instead rolled out what on the face of it looked like the iPhone 4 with a slightly better camera.

For any other manufacturer this would suffice, but not Apple.


Image via

Thankfully there’s a lot more to the iPhone 4S than a 8MP camera (which by the way is brilliant).

Firstly, it’s fast. Really fast. At least it is compared to my knackered old 3GS. The new dual-core A5 chip makes performing everyday tasks that much quicker, load times have improved and it no longer takes the best part of a day boot up.

The new iOS 5 operating system is also a great deal better than it’s predecessor, boasting an array of new features including full-on Twitter integration, iMessage (Apple’s answer to BBM), wireless syncing and a number of other improvements, all of which can be seen here.

There’s also iCloud, which stores all of your media, emails and documents in ‘the cloud’ and pushes them to you wirelessly on demand. More about that here.

The iPhone 4S’ ‘wow factor’ comes in the form of SIRI – a built in personal assistant that performs everyday tasks for you via voice command, from replying to a text, scheduling a meeting or checking the weather.

I have to admit that when this feature was announced I  wasn’t the least bit interested as voice command is nothing new and it’s never really taken off as a mainstream feature, largely because historically it’s been rubbish and incapable of processing any accent that isn’t ‘happy American’. This renders it all but useless for me, who’s accent is typically more ‘lazy Essex’.

But having shelled out a decent sum for my new toy, I thought it made sense to give SIRI the opportunity to prove itself and convince me otherwise.

Upon booting up my phone for the first time, naturally, the first thing I did was fire up SIRI and figured out ways to break it by asking it a number of challenging and obscene questions. As anyone would, right?

I have to say that I was blown away at SIRI’s ability to hold it’s own in these circumstances, even amused at it’s ability to respond with a level of sarcasm.

Ask SIRI “what are you wearing” and it replies “aluminosilicate glass and stainless steel. Nice, huh?”.

Ask SIRI “Who’s your daddy? and it replies “You are. Can we get back to work now”.

I could go on all day, but fun and games aside, how does SIRI fare as a personal assistant?

This week I’ve made a conscious effort to use SIRI as much as possible – I’ve asked it to call people for me, play music, wake me up for work, remind me to go to the bank on my lunch break, check the weather forecast for the week ahead and search for various queries on the web.

For all of the above, SIRI is great and has so far impressed me when performing these everyday tasks. If I ask SIRI to remind me to call someone after work, it will identify when I’m leaving the building via GPS and buzz though my reminder. Nice.

Problems arise when I need SIRI to string an actual sentence together for me, when replying to a text, for example. Perhaps it’s my dodgy Essex accent but it just doesn’t seem to translate very well and I’ve found that by the time I’ve told SIRI “no” a few times, it’s often faster to just type the message manually.

I see this as quite a big issue as SIRI is arguably most useful when driving – a time when texting with a touch screen is difficult to say the least. Combine SIRI’s inability to digest long sentences with a bit of engine noise and SIRI could soon have a new home by the side of the road.

That said, anything punchy like, “Where are you” or yes, I’m on my way” do work fine, I’ve found.

I’m finding it difficult to fall in love with SIRI and can’t help feel that it’s gimmick factor outweighs that of any real use. Not only are SIRI’s responses a bit hit and miss, I can’t help feel like a complete tool talking to my phone like it’s a real person.

A nice addition to a great phone it may be, but it’s definitely not the game-changer many thought it would be.

To put it another way, I wouldn’t feel confident showcasing SIRI to my Android-user friends – they would tear me to shreds.