iPhone 4S Early Reviews: Siri Speech Recognition Engine is the Killer Feature
The verdict is in. The iPhone 4S is "the best smartphone ever made." At least that's what early iPhone 4S reviewers are saying. Will the iPhone magic be enough to convince everyone to buy or upgrade?

And the Reviews are In

Getting to review products before launch is among the perks of being a technology writer. But while none of us at the CMSWire team had the opportunity to get an early review of the iPhone 4S, David Pogue of the New York Times and TechCrunch's MG Siegler have both been fortunate enough to try Apple's latest smartphone before public release. The consensus: It's a great phone, and Siri is probably the "killer" reason why smartphone users will want it.

Pogue says the iPhone 4S is magical, and even if it looks similar to the iPhone 4 physically, the magic happens within. He details four things that make the iPhone 4S great: The faster processor chip, better camera, world-phone capability and speech recognition. He goes on to detail how accurate Siri -- the iPhone 4S' speech recognition engine -- can be.

It's mind-blowing how inexact your utterances can be. Siri understands everything from "What's the weather going to be like in Tucson this weekend?" to "Will I need an umbrella tonight?""

'S' Stands for...

Meanwhile, Siegler says the "S" in iPhone 4S can stand for a lot of things -- Special, Super, Speed, Storage and even Sprint, since the iPhone debuts with the Sprint network with the 4S. But he decides that the best bet would be Speech or Siri, as he says this is a "worthwhile upgrade for many users," especially with the "intelligent assistant" that Siri is.

Learning Opportunities

Siegler likewise focuses on the new A5 processor, improved camera and the fact that the new iPhone is a world phone, which means you can use it on both CDMA and GSM networks. He also lauds the new Notifications system, which he says is akin to those of Android and webOS, but that "Apple took their time to make sure they did it right." Siegler says the new notification center will help keep track of everything, and iPhone users will no longer miss notifications when another one comes in.

He then praises Siri for its uncanny accuracy, and says "this is a feature that will sell the device." The software has some disadvantages, though, such as requiring server-side processing (a problem if you don't have an Internet connection) and the fact that it only has a few content and search partners at this point. But these should not be an issue with persistent data connections, unlimited data plans (or "bucket" bandwidth charging) and the introduction of new content partners. Siri even understands accents -- an interesting feature Siegler discovered after changing the iPhone 4S' language from UK English to US English.

If you’ve had an iPhone 3GS and have been waiting a couple years for the next iPhone to come out, now’s the time to upgrade. If you’re worried just because this is not called the "iPhone 5," you’re being foolish. If you’ve never owned an iPhone before and the 4S will be your first one, you’ll love it."

It seems that even if this is not the "iPhone 5" everyone's been waiting for, it's just a matter of nomenclature. The iPhone 4GS is still the fifth-generation iPhone and is still worth the upgrade. Don't be fooled by appearances. The iPhone 4S might look just like its 2010 predecessor, but the magic is in the inside.