How to command Siri on your new iPhone 4S

By the time you finish reading this, Apple would have sold more than 6 lakhiPhone 4S in five countries in which it launched the smartphone just 12 hours ago. The gadget’s on a roll. Analysts, says Bloomberg, estimate the latest Apple blockbuster to clock sales of 4 million units over the weekend, making it the fastest-selling gadget ever.

As long, clamourous queues built up outside Apple stores from Australia to Japan on Friday , the wait for the coveted smartphone had all the signs of extreme euphoria that has preceded the launch of iPhone’s previous versions.

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No one had expected the gadget to fly so high when Tim Cook, the new Apple chief executive officer, unveiled the iPhone 4S to a select group on October 4. There was general disappointment in the tech world, which was expecting the Cupertino-based company to deliver a zinger to Google’s Android. “So what,” said everyone, let down severely by Apple’s decision of not rolling out iPhone 5. But in a matter of days, the tide has turned; from “so what” to “so nice”.

The lukewarm, almost chiding, response has suddenly turned into a gushy, emotional potboiler. In the everyday-changing world of technology, it’s rare that a gadget elicits a unanimously upbeat opinion and it’s almost impossible that everyone who reviews it does it effusively. But that’s precisely what has happened to iPhone 4S.

The new gadget has not only ridden the initial wave of disappointment but has wowed all reviewers both sides of the Atlantic lucky to get their hands on one. Everyone says the new smartphone from Apple not only has the smarts to be streets ahead of competition but it has Siri, an intelligent voice-activated personal assistant.

“Once again Apple is taking a lead and asking a lot of its competitors ,” says Stephen Fry of the Guardian. “It feels like magic ,” says NYT’s David Pogue. WSJ’s Walt Mossberg didn’t gush but was thoroughly pleased with the device.

An attractive offering 

“The iPhone 4S is one of Apple’s less dramatic updates, but, when combined with the Siri, iOS 5and iCloud features, it presents an attractive new offering to smartphone users,” WSJ’s Walt Mossberg says.

The highlight of the iPhone 4S, what every reviewer is giving a big thumbs-up to, is Siri, Apple’svoice recognition technology. “Siri can perform an incredible range of tasks. She can get stock prices, weather, currency and price conversions, dictionary definitions , measurement conversions , math totals. She uses GPS to know where you are, so you can say things like, ‘Remind me to pick up the dry cleaning when I leave work’ – and she’ll do it,” says Pogue.

With all the smartness of Siri comes another crackerjack in the form of iOS5, Apple’s newoperating system with an additional 200 features. Most prominent is iCloud, which replaces MobileMe. iCloud is absolutely free and allows everyone to store their data, photos, apps, music in the cloud.

Notifications, a problem area, get a makeover with Notification Center and messaging gets a lot of heft with the birth of iMessage which allows you to skirt any messaging fees when chatting up other iPhone/iPad/iPod touch users who also have iOS 5 in their gadgets. But Siri by all accounts is the downright winner.

“Siri’s premise is quite simple. Not only does Siri understand what you’re saying to it, it understands the context in which you’re saying it – so for instance, if you try and schedule a meeting on top of another meeting, Siri will warn you and ask if you’d like to change the time of your new appointment, and it’ll listen as you tell it a new time,” explains Joshua Topolsky, a tech blogger for

Apple also found a workaround to looking stupid while speaking out commands to your phone – a feature that been available on smartphones for ages with apps such as Vlingo and GoogleApps. As Wired’s Brian X Chen explains: “Dictating commands would look awkward in public, but Apple thought of a trick to make this less weird.

By default, if you hold the iPhone up to your ear, Siri is activated, so it looks like you’re talking to someone on the phone rather than talking to the phone itself.” NYT’s Pogue says it’s a shame that Siri isn’t available for older iPhones. “Apple says that she requires the 4S’s faster processor, although before Apple bought the company, there was a Siri app that ran just fine on other models.” Once again, Apple has taken something mundane, a feature that almost every smartphone probably already has (but never uses), and turned it into something magical.

Siri, with even its nebulous intelligence in its first avatar, looks poised to become the next big thing. After all, everyone in these recessionary times can do with a supercool, connected and unpaid personal assistant.