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Published on October 16th, 2011 | by Richard Cartwright


US iPhone 4S users don’t get a cool English butler, but do get restaurant directions

The big selling point of the iPhone 4S is the addition of the Siri artificial intelligence assistant. In the UK, Siri has the stereotyped English butler synthesized sound. In the US, Siri is voiced by a female synthesizer type voice.  For US iPhones the Siri voice can not be changed. Apparently, part of the reason for this is that  the location based services that are only available in the the US are tied to the particular female voice.  Apple has not confirmed that, nor is it likely to, but based on empirical data from the web the reports are that if the voice is changed off the preset in the US the location and driving directions features will not work. Apple does report that location based Siri services will be available some time in 2012.

It is something of a mystery as to why the feature is tied to a particular voice. Since the location based services only work in the US at present someone at Apple thought it would be easier to tie the feature set to the US default.  Another question that some have asked is why Siri was released while still in beta. First, other than the general spec upgrade, the Siri feature is about the only thing that distinguishes the iPhone 4S from the iPhone 4. Absent Siri and what it promises, a lot of upgraders would have probably held out for the iPhone 5.

The second reason is that Siri is in a beta, and getting data on its use from literally millions of users will help Apple to improve how the product deals with information requests and most importantly, gives the engineers who are responsible for the voice recognition part of the programs priceless feedback from the millions of people Siri has talking to their iPhones. Anyone who remembers the early days of voice recognition recall how the program had to be trained to recognize the users voice.  Apple wants Siri to recognize any voice out of the box, think the “Star Trek” computers. The information Apple will gather will go a long way toward taking the beta” label off of Siri.

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About the Author

Richard Cartwright is the American correspondent for Mighty Gadget (because let's face it-it's pretty bloody late in London when a lot of the good gadget announcements are made in the US) He is a OG (original Geek) who has been interested in gadgets before most of his readers were born.

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