Why the iPhone 5’s Voice Control Features Are so Exciting

Any time that Apple decides to release a new iPhone, it’s big news. Tech blogs rarely talk about anything else for days, regardless of whether the new features are all that exciting. Apple still has a death grip on the smart phone market, and while Android phones may sell more by volume, the iPhone is still the phone to beat. In fact, the iPhone is brought up in nearly every smart phone review and every Android phone announcement. It’s huge.

However, Apple’s marketing genius is backed up by a solid reputation for good hardware and immaculate software. On October 4th, Apple will likely announce a new iPhone, the iPhone 5.

This is the first iPhone to be announced after Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO, so the stakes are high. According to a report from 9to5Mac, a reliable Apple blog, the iPhone 5’s biggest feature will be voice control. Apple recently teased reporters with invites to the October 4th announcement that read “Let’s Talk, iPhone,” so it looks like the rumors are true.

Hold on, though–the iPhone 4 had voice control. Even the iPhone 3GS had voice control. How significantly could Apple have improved voice capabilities to make this the biggest feature of their next-gen smart phone?

According to 9to5Mac, they’ve improved it tremendously. The iPhone 5 will be designed to handle dozens of commands accurately. It sounds absolutely breathtaking. Here’s a look at what the iPhone 5’s voice controls are expected to do.

Wolfram Alpha. For those who aren’t mega-geeks, Wolfram Alpha is a computational knowledge engine that answers questions by learning what its users are looking for.

If you were to type “how far away is the moon in inches,” Wolfram Alpha would immediately respond with 1.408 X 10 000000000 (I just asked this, by the way).

The iPhone 5 will have reportedly have access to this knowledge engine and can accept questions via voice. You could ask your iPhone virtually any questions and receive a spoken answer in seconds.

This is a cool feature that’s also tremendously useful–think of all of the conversations you’ve ever had while driving where a bit of extra info would have been helpful. If the iPhone 5 hears voices fairly accurately–as it already has on the iPhone 4 and 3GS–it should be an incredible feature.

Social Networking/Creepiness. You could also ask your iPhone where your friends are, and if they’re carrying a GPS-equipped smart phone, you’ll be able to instantly see where they are, on a map. Of course, your friends will have to allow this feature, and there’s some serious privacy questions to consider here.

Nevertheless, it could be a worthwhile feature to use with significant others or family members. Picture losing someone in a crowd, then asking your iPhone to track them down. While this feature could be implemented without voice controls, the voice controls certainly make it more intuitive. Remember, intuitiveness is what Apple’s all about.

A Personal Secretary. The iPhone 5 will also be able to edit your calendar. You could tell it to add something like a doctor’s appointment, and the iPhone 5 will take care of it after asking you a few questions to confirm that it’s making the correct edits.

The really exciting thing is that Apple insiders claim that the personal secretary feature will be extremely powerful. You can have it read information about your day’s schedule, make edits, or do just about anything that you could do without voice control.

The iPhone 5 sounds like something out of a 1980s science fiction novel, so it’ll be interesting to see how the voice control features work when and if they’re officially announced on October 4th.

What features would you want in a future iPhone? Post below.


“The New iPhone,” 9to5Mac.com.

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