Never mind the haters; Apple's iPhone 4S offers plenty of new stuff, including a much-faster processor called A5, and a virtual assistant named Siri.
Her processing demands are such that Siri will only be found on the iPhone 4S, which has that faster processor, and not the new iPod Touch. (We're waiting for Apple's confirmation but its description backs that up.) This looks to be a massive step-up from the first voice-controlled MP3 player I ever reviewed, the ill-fated eDigital Oddyssey 1000.
Siri accesses Wolfram-Alpha, Yelp, and possibly other services on the back end to answer your questions, and will integrate deeply with many of Apple's own apps, such as Calendar, Weather, and Reminders, from day one, October 14.
We asked Apple on Wednesday to confirm that third-party apps will be able to accept voice commands from Siri and will update if we receive clarification there, but we already know that Siri can take dictation and send it to third-party apps. That means we should be able to say things to tomorrow's music apps using Siri, including, we hope, the following. (And yes, we realize that music apps will probably have to pause the music to accept voice commands if we're listening over speakers.)
1. "Rock me, Amadeus."
Right out of the box, Siri will let you as for specific songs by saying "Play ‘Rock Me, Amadeus‘" (or whatever other song) to recall the timeless musical stylings of Falco - even if you have it stored on iCloud and not on your phone. (You can also ask her to play a specific genre.) Surely, at least one enterprising developer will patch Siri's voice dictation onto a music search, so that we can tap the button and simply say song titles, the names of Spotify/MOG/Rdio/etc. playlists, our streaming radio stations, and so on. This will be great for the car.
2. "Tell me more about that band."
Speaking of listening to music in a car, it rules, because you're (hopefully) not doing much else other than driving and listening. Pretty much everywhere else, we're doing something else as we listen. The downside to enjoying music as you drive, though, is that it's hard to do research on a band. In addition to "liking" the band or otherwise tagging the song, we're looking forward to asking Siri to read the band's biography, or perhaps even help track down audio interviews of the band. That way, we can learn more about them while keeping our eyes on the road and our hands upon the wheel.
3. "‘Gimme a laser down the road that I must travel."
Lyric searches are among the most popular on the entire web, so clearly, a lot of people out there want to figure them out. For now, Apple has only confirmed that Siri will output straight dictation. But it would be nice if Apple manages to integrate some of Siri's deeper intelligence into its iOS SDK, so that even "sounds-like" lyrics can get picked up by lyric apps. This would have helped me out immensely during the Mr. Mister days.
4. "Always play this song when I'm here"
By coupling Siri voice commands to the iPhone 4S's GPS information, app developers should be able to let you tie songs to specific places using your voice. That way, an app can send you a location-based Reminder (another new iOS 5 addition), so that you can play the same song the next time you're there - and do it all (mostly) hands-free (you have to tap the mic icon to issue a command).
5. "Send this song to Facebook/my friend Bob/my road trip playlist/etc."
Apple says Siri can take dictation and post it to Facebook. We'd also appreciate the ability to post whatever song we just listened to, along with a comment. While we're at it, it'd be nice to be able to send the song to other places, too, like into a playlist or to a specific friend.
Sure, we could accomplish all of these things with screen taps. But voice will always be easier while driving or jogging, and besides, there's just something about telling a machine what to do that's cooler when you use your voice.
Computer: Publish article.