Let’s face it, Apple started and hyped the entire ‘app metaphor’. They made it important to have a centralized distribution center for software and bundle it into an ecosystem — where multiple layers of hardware and software interact and have clearly defined relationships. With the not-so-recent push to “web technologies”, browsers are becoming the dashboard for data and dedicated ‘apps’ are taking the back-burner. We’ve been slowly moving away from using a specific source to get specific information. This is where voice control comes into play.
Voice control has been around for years. Everybody knows about Nuance, Windows Voice Command and the Mac OS text-to-speech widget, yet they have an extremely limited scenario for usage. People use voice control on their mobile devices for simple tasks like dictation, music control or calling people. Siri on is going to change this. Although it was available in the App Store previously, now that Siri is integrated into iOS5, things are going to be different.
I’ll say the majority of mobile usage can be separated into 2 streams; either you’re giving information, or you’re getting information. Sending emails, taking pictures or replying to text messages, falls under giving. Browsing the web, listening to music/podcasts or using navigation software, falls under getting.
The purpose of Siri is to abstract both of these activities into a single method of interaction. It’s appstraction! Current smartphones owners have learned to launch apps to complete tasks. It requires active thought in order to do so. I want the weather, so naturally I am going to open a weather app. I want to set an alarm for tomorrow, so I’ll open the alarm/clock app. There is an active thought, a solution to the thought and then physical interaction with the mobile device begins. It’s an extremely recently-learned response. Speech, however, isn’t. Most of us have been talking since we were at least 3.
Speech is an immediate and direct subset to thought. It’s the next easiest thing to do — ask a question, get an answer. Using speech to get and give information is inherent to humans. It’s intuitive. It’s fast and it’s (usually) straight forward. If there’s one thing that Apple has been able to do, it’s provide relatively intuitive interfaces and experiences, on a consistent basis. Consistency is key.
Most people are lambasting Siri because they don’t want to talk to their phones. Voice usage is down, data usage is up. We know you don’t want to talk to people, let alone your phone. Stop trying to imagine yourself in a crowded subway station or mall, yelling at your phone in order to dictate an e-mail. You can still type it out on the horrid virtual keyboard. Now imagine you’re in bed and you forget to set an alarm. Don’t lift the glaring screen to your face, tap an icon, fat-finger the input to 7 AM and then put it back down. Lean over, press the home button and say “Wake me up at 7 AM”. Roll over and go to sleep. You didn’t even open your eyes.
I know change is hard. You want to interact with your phone. You want to hold and look at your phone. You want to swipe and flick through the interface on your phone. Except when you don’t want to and you simply want to get something done. Siri simply enhances your ability to reduce the amount of interactions it takes to get something done. Most consumers use technology because it betters their life. Siri will drastically reduce complications you have with your iPhone, if you want it to.