This is the sixteenth episode of the Ask Different Podcast. Your hosts this week are Kyle Cronin, Jason Salaz, Nathan Greenstein.

  • 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.

  • Since Siri relies on the cloud for everything, we discuss what happens when that cloud doesn’t work. Somewhat disappointingly, without a network connection (or when Apple’s servers aren’t working), Siri is actually less useful than iOS 3’s Voice Control. In an effort to find an offline fallback, we try disabling Siri. To our surprise, Voice Control a la iOS 3, and devices not named “iPhone 4S”, is then available. Kudos to Apple for including this.

  • Staying on the topic of voice interaction, we discuss the transcription features of the iPhone 4S. In addition to the Siri assistant, you can have the phone transcribe your speech anywhere you have the ability to type text. Nathan shares his experience with this feature’s usefulness and accuracy, and requests a feature.

  • One feature in particular, Wolfram Alpha integration, we agree that this feature is a nice idea, but not exactly ready for serious use yet. For one thing, Siri seems to have a lot of trouble recognizing when to submit something to Wolfram Alpha, especially with things involving math. The other problem is that, since Wolfram Alpha returns an image, Siri can’t read the result to you. This seriously limits usefulness if you’re trying to use your phone hands-free.

  • The iPhone 4S is officially Nathan’s first iOS device. He shares what’s stood out to him in general, and what he’s noticed especially coming from an Android-based tablet. He loves the iPhone’s screen, navigation, and animation; but he misses some keyboard features from Android.

  • Nathan’s appreciation of iOS’ ubiquitous, smooth animation leads us to a discussion of animation on Android. Kyle talks about experience with early Android phones and how jagged their animation was. As far as he’s seen, the situation has improved but is still far from perfect. We all agree that iOS is more optimized for animations than Android. We note that Apple seems to spend time on animations in other areas, like OS X and WebKit.

  • Talking about Android’s animations turns us to their advertisements, and how their advertising emphasizes many details that generally don’t mean much to many of the individuals watching them; Processor, Memory, and to a lesser extent, Megapixels in the Camera. While many Android commercials emphasize rough raw details, every iPhone, iPod, and iPad commercial to date talks about the things you can do with them.

  • An advertisement that hasn’t started yet is a soon-to-be aired series of commercials about Windows Phone with the theme: “It’s Good To Be In the Family”. Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley recently discussed these commercials on TWiT’s “Windows Weekly” show, Episode 230. These commercials are intended to highlight the benefits of grouping Microsoft properties together. Despite the opinions presented, Kyle provides an example of how art actually winds up imitating real life.

  • Did you know that iOS 5 is here? Did you know that you can get a 6-Day Weather Forecast in the Notification Center? Or that you can now easily figure out just which application is taking up the most disk space? Jason recently started a question on Ask Different called “What tiny thing in iOS 5 makes you smile, or has caught you off guard?”, and it has garnered some very detailed and very interesting answers with things that may never be advertised, but still carry a huge amount of benefit.

  • One major con that Jason has experienced is that advanced capabilities of audio files have been slowly rendered worthless over the last few major iOS versions. AAC files have the ability to be ‘chaptered’, but sometime in the iOS 4 series the ability to select a specific chapter from within the file disappeared, and the current-chapter progress bar is now a whole file progress bar. As of iOS 5, the unique artwork feature has also disappeared. All of this has rendered Tiesto’s Club Life Podcast significantly less interesting.

  • Our Question of the Week is “Why is iOS 5 draining my battery so fast?” asked by Jaydles on October 14th. Battery issues in prior versions of iOS have always had a specific series of steps; Disable anything you can (3G Radio, Bluetooth, Location Services, Push e-mail retrieval, etc.), turn brightness down, and if your battery still discharges unnecessarily fast, take it into an Apple Store. We featured this question in order to publish an interesting thought, that with the continual improvement of sync services, and the addition of Reminders, there may be wedging issues with remote storage servers such as those provided by your company’s e-mail service.

  • Our App of the Week is Mou, a Markdown editor for web designers. We give our thoughts on Mou’s features as opposed to other live preview-only applications such as Marked. Mou is free during the beta releases, and donating to the developer gives you a free license after Mou 1.0 is released.

This episode was recorded on October 15th, 2011. You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or iTunes. We’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment on this post or e-mail us at We are resuming our regular bi-weekly schedule after this episode.


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