- Starting with some site news, Ask Different has seen record traffic lately. On the heels of iOS 5, iCloud, and the iPhone 4S, visits have gone way up! We hope to see similar increases after future Apple updates. We encourage our users to ‘seed’ the site with questions that people are likely to have after a major software or hardware release.
- As we get more traffic, there is a noted increase of ‘help desk’ questions that specify a vague problem with few details. The Stack Exchange system works best with long, detailed questions, and detailed answers. Back-and-forth troubleshooting is not a good fit for SE. We encourage our users to edit the question (if possible), vote to close, or flag these questions.
- Concerning flagging, note that the moderators can’t review every question on the site, but we do review every flag. If you see something bad, please flag it! And if we decline your flag, don’t take that to mean that you should stop flagging. Kyle and Nathan always try to explain why a flag has been declined. Continue Reading »
We begin by asking Siri to introduce herself. She tells us who she is, and what she can be used for. We demo some of Siri’s core productivity functionality, as well as some more… playful things. For instance, we get Siri to call Nathan, Shirley.
On the less playful side of Siri, we show how Siri can, by default, accessed from a locked phone without entering a passcode. That means that you can make calls, send texts, and send emails from a ‘locked’ phone. Nathan demonstrates how this could be a very effective way to mess with someone.
Just as we’re finishing demonstrating what Siri can do, she decides to stop working! As it turns out, the day we chose to record was the same day that Apple’s Siri servers began experiencing difficulty. It seems that the issue has been resolved by now, but this is an important reminder of Siri’s complete dependence on the cloud.
Now that we’ve had time to digest Apple’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” event, we share our thoughts about the announcements and how they fit into the bigger Apple picture.
- We begin this show with some site news. Ask Different is now a member of Blog Overflow. You can visit our blog at apple.blogoverflow.com. We have some posts up already, but we’re searching for more contributors! If you’re interested in contributing, either regularly or on occasion, please leave an answer to this meta post or send us an email at email@example.com. We’re looking forward to seeing what members of our community can come up with!
- Additionally, Ask Different was given a refreshed navigation bar in honor of Steve Job’s death.
- There is disagreement among pundits about the significance of Apple’s iPhone 4S announcement. We agree that the keynote felt disappointing, but we acknowledge that there have been some hardware improvements. Jason’s guess is that, since most of the software improvements (iOS 5) have already been announced, the focus on hardware made the announcements feel underwhelming. Nathan’s guess is that people are mainly disappointed because they waited a long time for such a seemingly small change.
- We debate why the iPhone 3GS is still available. Kyle thinks that this is a Tim Cook move, and worries that Apple will start keeping around their older hardware for a long time. Does this degrade the brand so much that it isn’t worth having a low-cost offering? We discuss whether keeping old models around is a good idea for iPhones, as well as for desktops.
- We discuss the changing release cycle for iPhones. With more time between releases, it seems like development has been gradually losing speed. We predict when the next iPhone will be released, and what we expect Apple to do in the future.
- From release cycles, the discussion turns to the holidays. Is the holiday season a big selling time for iPhones? We wonder about how one goes about giving someone an iPhone without making them pay for a pricey monthly contract.
- It seems to us that the iPhone 4S was released later than Apple had hoped. We discuss potential reasons for this, and agree that it was probably software-related. Our guess is that Apple was busy fine-tuning Siri to get it ready for general use. This leads us to wonder again about how cloud-based Siri is. Are local commands that interact with first-party apps and media playback sent to Apple’s servers? Dictation only? Or are there commands whose processing in only done locally?
- We talk about voice control options on other platforms. Nathan’s old flip phone has a voice control function, but it doesn’t exactly… work. Kyle wishes that there was something like Siri for Mac, and Jason and Nathan tell him about the little-known voice functions of OS X. The built in software is lacking, but we mention some third-party alternatives, like Nuance’s Dragon Dictate. We agree that, if it existed on OS X, Siri would be much less useful than it is on a mobile device.
- Thinking more about Siri, we reiterate a point from the last episode: Siri will be much more powerful if Apple opens it to third-party developers. We discuss the technical difficulties involved in doing this, but hope that Apple gives motivated developers the opportunity to do the work and integrate their apps with Siri.
- We further compare the speech recognition software we’ve used. Our experience is varied with Google’s speech-to-text, despite their giant amount of data to analyze. We hope that Apple (and Nuance, who they’ve partnered with for Siri) can do a better job. Jason is hopeful because of his good experiences with the voice controls available on his iPhone 4. He especially likes its ability to recognize artist and album names spoken in Japanese, even if the English voice cannot speak them back.
- Our App of the Week is Growl. Growl is a Mac app that provides a framework for system-wide notifications. Lots of popular apps (like Sparrow, Spotify, and Firefox) have Growl support built in. Growl is available for $1.99 on the Mac App Store.
- Our Question of the Week is, “Is there an app that creates a system-wide audio equalizer?“, asked by Nathan. Nathan’s been using Spotify, which doesn’t have a built-in equalizer unlike iTunes, and wants to know how to create one that applies to the whole system. ioi recommends a nice app called Boom. Boom lets you boost system volume, as well as apply an equalizer to all audio output. Boom is available for $8.99 on the Mac App Store.
- We finish with the big news of the week, Steve Jobs’ death. We share our impressions of Steve and his work at Apple, and wonder a little about the future. We end the show with a moment of silence.
Today, we cover Apple’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” event:
- Apple announced Cards, an iPhone app for sending cards via snail mail. We talk about what the app is, but we can’t help but ask “Why?”
- Apple gave a recap today of some of the key features of iOS 5. There was very little new info today, but we do have one thing: a release date, October 12th. The iPhone 4S will ship with iOS 5 two days later.
- Also recapped today was iCloud. We learned that Apple will be expanding its Find My iPhone service to OS X, and will release Find My Friends. Find My Friends is a location-based service that tells you where your friends are at a given time, provided that they have chosen to share their location. Apple also confirmed a detail we were previously uncertain about for its iTunes Match service: music can be streamed, or downloaded to the device. iCloud ships October 12.
- The first new product announcement to come out of Cupertino today was a new iPod nano. The new nano will have the same hardware as the previous generation, but it features much-improved software. The nano is now easier to navigate, and includes extra fitness support. Apple will add 16 additional clock faces to all versions of the current generation of nano, available via a software update. Lastly, the price on the nano dropped from $149 to $129.
- The iPod touch was not completely absent from today’s announcements: its price has dropped from $229 to $199, and now comes in your choice of black or white.
- The iPod shuffle and iPod classic were left unchanged. They have not been updated, but will continue to be sold in their current form.
- To the meat of the announcements: the new iPhone. Apple did not, in fact, announce an iPhone 5. Instead, they released the iPhone 4S, a souped-up version of the current iPhone 4. New features include an updated CPU, the dual-core Apple A5, intelligent antenna switching for faster download speeds, and the fact that the 4S is now truly a world phone, packing CDMA and GSM radios into a single device.
- The other major hardware improvement to the iPhone 4S is its camera. The new camera has an 8 megapixel sensor, and includes numerous other image quality improvements. Combined with the updates iOS 5 is bringing, the delay between opening the Camera app and taking the first picture is down to nearly one second, and the delay between taking pictures at just half a second. The 4S will record 1080p video at 30 frames per second, and uses the gyroscope to provide imagery stabilization for smoother video.
- The newest feature of the 4S is born from an acquisition Apple made over one year ago: Siri. Siri is a tool that lets you control your phone with your voice. It has numerous features that make it more powerful than the Voice Command features of the previous iPhones. For one, you can say things however you want and it will understand what you mean. Siri also has very deep OS integration: you can use it to make calls, send texts, manipulate your calendar, and many other things. Additionally, in places that would normally cause the keyboard to come up, you can tap a new microphone icon on the on-screen keyboard and Siri will allow you to type via dictation. All of these features will require the iPhone 4S, dictation requires an active internet connection.
- The iPhone 4S will be available for pre-order on October 7th, and released on October 14th. It comes in three capacities: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. The prices are $199, $299, and $399 respectively, all requiring a 2 year contract. The 4S will be available on AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. With this new phone also brings a price drop to the two previous models. The iPhone 4 drops to 8GB and $99 with a 2 year contract, and the CDMA model will also become available on Sprint. And finally, the iPhone 3GS 8GB remains on sale, for free, with a 2 year contract.
- Nathan shares a final thought wondering whether the Siri service would be opened up to third-party developers. We discuss how Android provides the capability for the system to hook into third-party apps, and whether Apple will do something similar with Siri.