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Apple's 'Assistant' Seen as Key Feature for New iPhone Hardware

9to5Mac offers a more complete picture of what users can expect with Apple's forthcoming "Assistant" feature, revealing that the Nuance/Siri voice-powered personal assistant will require the iPhone 4S/5 that will be introduced at next week's media event.

The report details the natural speech recognition capabilities of Assistant and its ability to integrate across a number of iOS services to offer a powerful personal assistant allow users to handle scheduling, reminder, and messaging tasks solely by voice. Examples of real-world applications of the feature include setting a personal reminder to pick up milk once the user arrives at a market, asking for GPS directions to a location, and composing and sending text messages by voice.

Assistant will also reportedly integrate a conversational aspect in which the system can ask the user questions to clarify and refine its understanding of what is being requested.
The system will actually speak back and forth with the user to gain the most information in order to provide the best results. The user essentially can hold a conversation with their iPhone like it is another human being. For example, if a user is making a meeting with me, they will say “setup meeting with Mark” and the first “bubble” of the conversation thread will say that. After that, the system will speak back: “which e-mail address should Mark be notified at, work or personal?” This question will both be spoken out loud by the iPhone Assistant and shown as a new “bubble” in the conversation thread. The user will then respond with the email address they want to notify me at, and the appointment will be made. The iPhone will even show a quick glance at a calendar view to confirm the appointment. If the Assistant was sending an SMS, as another example, a mini SMS view would appear so the user has a quick glance at the SMS thread.
Assistant is also said to integrate with WolframAlpha, allowing users to obtain answers to factual questions using the service's computational capabilities. Other voice-powered features coming as part of the package include integration with Apple's "Find My Friends" service and speech-to-text transcription from Nuance.

The report notes that the sophisticated voice features will require the new iPhone hardware from Apple, relying on the company's A5 system-on-a-chip and a bump in RAM to 1 GB to support the heavy workload. Both the A4-based iPhone 4 and A5-based iPad 2 currently offer 512 MB of RAM. Sources also reiterate long-standing claims of an 8-megapixel rear camera in the new iPhone.

MacRumors has independently heard very similar information regarding the Assistant capabilities in the next iPhone, lending credence to the details included in the report.

As for whether Apple's next iPhone will be an iPhone 4-like model known so far as the iPhone 4S or a redesigned iPhone 5, today's report notes that the next-generation prototypes capable of offering the Assistant feature have so far been seen as iPhone 4-like in design. But sources are careful not to read too much into that fact, as Apple had been rumored to be putting iPhone 5 internals into iPhone 4 cases for testing and secrecy purposes, and the company's final plans remain unknown.

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Top Rated Comments

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94 months ago

Great. Yet another "article" that refers to a rumour from another site as though it's fact.

Yet if they didn't report on it, you would be one of the first to be asking "Why has MacRumors not posted on this yet!? OMG THEY ARE SLOW!!!"

Not everyone checks every one of these Apple/tech blogs like you or I. Better that they report on it so those who just follow MR can read it, rather than not report on it and nobody covers it.

Again, the website is called MacRUMORS.
Rating: 36 Votes
94 months ago
I wonder how well this iPhone Assistant voice will integrate with the already-existing voices inside my head.
Rating: 31 Votes
94 months ago
I'm not really that interested in having a conversation with my phone. Seems more of a novelty feature to me.
Rating: 25 Votes
94 months ago
Nuance is ok but not essential....Give me a faster processor, better battery life and a 4" screen and I'm happy...
Rating: 20 Votes
94 months ago

Great. Yet another "article" that refers to a rumour from another site as though it's fact.

you are reading macRUMORS. get over yourself.
Rating: 15 Votes
94 months ago
I only recently started using the voice command option for the iPod app. I tend to find that I am arguing with it more than getting what I want... Me: "Play Song X" iOS: "I'm sorry, you must have FaceTime enabled to make calls" Me: "No! Play Song X" iOS: "I'm sorry the genius isn't available" ugh!

I can only hope that this new system will work better... I do really love the idea of being able to voice control my device... especially when driving.
Rating: 13 Votes
94 months ago
I wonder if the speech recognition will actually be any good or if it will be just the same garbage we have had on Macs. Which has not seemed to have improved any since it was introduced in System 7 with the AV Quadra models.
Rating: 10 Votes
94 months ago

Why would this require an A5 and 1GB of memory? Nuance's speech services are almost completely driven through their servers. Yes there will be some code that has to run locally, but the heavy lifting is all done remotely. Demo Dragon Go or Siri to see how Nuance's technology works.

If Apple or anyone else can provide a legitimate reason for requiring this be limited to A5, I'll probably accepted it (being too much of a fanboy) but Apple will get a ton of bad press over it. Unless the really explain the limitations, there is going to be a lot of people howling that the limitation is artificial and meant only to force upgrades. Same as what happened when iOS 4 turned iPhone 3G's into steaming piles of sludge immediately after upgrading.

That is Apple's M.O. Every year iterate a couple hardware features (better camera, better connectivity) and a couple software features that "can't" be ran on previous gen devices. See: MMS, the original voice control, tethering, even for god's sakes wallpaper on the 3G. Jailbreaking has proven these features are perfectly functional with existing hardware.
Rating: 8 Votes
94 months ago

Dual-core with 1GB of ram is standard for a smartphone now days. :D

So is the four hour battery life...
Rating: 8 Votes
94 months ago
This could be big.

I might be a lone voice here - but this could be big.

Big as in - quite a major change in what people expect personal computers to do.

Big as in - replacing internet search as the first port-of-call for many actions.

Big as in - causing a sea change in data-based web services so that they integrate properly with assistants.

Big as in - Apple investing some cash to make this service better. Specifically Apple needs its own data oriented search-engine.

Looking at you Wolfram.

Rating: 8 Votes

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