On brink of iPhone 4S NZ release, outage reveals Siri’s surprising secret
UPDATE: Following reader queries about the amount of data Siri might send and receive - pertinent given NZ mobile data plans tend to have tighter caps than elsewhere - NBR asked Apple if it had any Siri data usage statistics for the average iPhone 4S owner.
A rep for Apple Australia-New Zealand replied: "No."
But despite that gruff response (a surprise given the number of questions on the topic on Apple's own support forums), it actually seems Siri is pretty efficient. After two weeks of tests, the well-regarded Ars Technica estimated the virtual assistant would use a modest 20MB or so a month if asked 11 questions a day; and around 11MB if you ask four to six questions a day.
That's peanuts, really - especially given that some of the time you're using Siri you'll be on your home or office wi-fi network.
A two-day failure of Siri – the iPhone 4S’s much vaunted “virtual assistant” – has revealed the surprising truth about the way the service works.
It was already taken as a given that Siri had to access the internet to answer queries, for Siri uses WolframAlpha.com as her primary source for answering general knowledge questions.
But 48 hours of intermittent problems (over Friday and Saturday NZ time) have also revealed, according to pcworld.com, that Siri also goes online when answering basic queries, such as “when is my next hair dressing appointment?”
The virtual assistant is completely network-dependent.
The new iPhone could answer such calendar questions using information held on the handset, and its own chip, but it’s faster to send the audio file to an Apple data centre, where huge amounts of processing power are on-tap.
The downside: when there are problems with Siri’s online service, the virtual assistant goes totally mute.
In reporting the Siri failure, US media have focussed in on the fact the virtual assistant is a beta product (or “technospeak for not quite cooked yet" as the New York Times puts it) – a fact highlighted in Apple comments to NBR on October 31 (see here for the company's comments about Siri and the Kiwi accent).
Battery bugs resolved "in a few weeks"
The problems with Siri come on the heels of a series of software bugs discovered with iOS 5 (the latest version of Apple’s software that runs the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch). In some instances, the software glitches sap battery life.
The bugs have yet to be resolved (suggested workarounds and an update here).
Apple told TechCrunch it hopes to have a software update out in "a few weeks" (iOS 5.0.1) that will address the problem.
The company says the bugs only affect only a small number of users. Many iOS 5 users have told NBR they are not affected by the problem.
iTunes Match a no-show
A third issue has been the non-appearance of iTunes Match.
The service lets you store your iTunes collection online (without the need to upload a song if it’s already in Apple’s catalogue), then access it from multiple iOS devices.
It had been scheduled to launch in the US on November 1 (and other countries at a later, unspecified, date) with an annual subscription at $US25.
Apple has yet to elaborate on the reasons for the uncharacteristic delay.
The iPhone 4S is due to launch in New Zealand on Friday, with sales through Apple’s website and authorised resellers, and through Vodafone’s website and stores.
Apple opened pre-orders last Friday. Vodafone has a preview page but is not taking orders yet, and has yet to post contract pricing. The telco has said it will update NBR today.