Lets talk iPhone

Kevin Smith
on 17 October 2011

I was stunned recently when the tech world reacted to the recent iPhone 4S reveal with a kind of lack-lustre ‘oh is that it?’, ‘it’s just a faster iPhone 4’ and ‘it’s not a revolutionary phone in any sense’. Gobsmacked.

Now maybe its because the tech world spend so much time studying tech they forget what people actually want; or what Jo Blogs on the street understands the word revolutionary to mean. Maybe they forgot that when the iPad was announced it was met with similar disregard, many saying it was nothing more than ‘just a big iPhone’. Of course, this ‘big iPhone’ went on to sell phenomenally well, practically wiping out the lucrative netbook market and re-defining the modern computing landscape.

The truth is the tech world is out of touch with reality from time to time and this time they missed the point entirely.

Voice Input and Artificial Intelligence go Mainstream

The event was called ‘Lets talk iPhone’. No one really seemed to get that this was the whole point. Apple revealed a new phone that looked a lot like the old phone. But it also revealed a phone that you could talk to.

Apples new iPhone 4S lets you ask questions and issue instructions by talking to it. It also understands the context in which you are asking those questions. So when you say “Text my wife and tell her I’ll be late home” it works out who your wife is and dutifully sends her the message. You can say, “Find me a good Italian restaurant near by”.  It does. You can say “What about French restaurants?” It knows you still want to find ones locally so it does a local search and shows you the results. No typing. No special commands. In true Apple style, ‘It just works’. Apple has just taken voice interaction and artificial intelligence mainstream. Now that really is revolutionary.

Some people may say that this kind of thing is nothing new. And they would be right. Nearly. If we take a look back to the last time Apple revolutionised the way we interacted with our phones I think we can see a pattern emerging…

Technology that ‘Just Works’

Touch screen technology had been around for years. It was not new. But when Apple built the iPhone they simply did it better than anyone had done it before. And they marketed it better. Touch screen tech became mainstream because Apple made it mainstream. They made it work, not just in the mechanical sense, but in the human sense; they made a touch phone something you actually wanted to use.

Before touch phones, buttons were just fine. Who wanted or needed touch anyway. It was an inferior technology. People wanted tactile feedback not some flat multi-purpose surface. Wrong!

Fast-forward back to today. Apple has just released a phone with probably the best voice interface yet. But who really wants to talk to their phones? Well that is the point. No one did. But I bet it won’t be long before we’re all doing it. For the second time in a very few number of years Apple have re-defined the way we interact with technology. Yet again, they have made it that little bit more human.

Time to Talk?

When Steve Jobs was asked, “What’s Apple going to do next?” He replied something along the lines of “We’re just waiting for the next big thing”. You see they don’t even have to invent the next big thing. They just wait until its ready; until the tech has caught up to where it needs to be. Until it is good enough and cheap enough to make a product that works really really well. So, is voice control and artificial intelligence just about to go mainstream?

Hey iPhone, Lets talk!


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