Blog Post

How likely is it that Siri comes to other iOS devices?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Apple (s aapl) is apparently trying out Siri on devices other than the iPhone 4S, according to reports circulating over the weekend. It comes as no surprise that Apple would want to see how Siri works on different devices, but how likely is it that those of us who aren’t Apple engineers will ever get the chance to use the personal assistant on anything older than an iPhone 4S?

No technical barriers

For late-model devices, there doesn’t appear to be any technical barrier really standing in the way of getting Siri working. The iPhone 4, apparently, can run it just fine with a few simple software modifications. And if Apple’s 2010 smartphone can handle it, it’s almost guaranteed that the iPad 2, and likely even the latest generation iPod touch can do the same. There’s no special hardware feature that the iPhone 4S has that distinguished it from those devices, so technical concerns aren’t preventing Siri from coming to more recent iOS devices.

Why Siri?

Why did Apple create Siri? That’s the question that may have the most to do with the possibility of seeing it on other platforms. There are a couple different motivators, and each lead to a different conclusion about its propagation to other devices:

1. Siri is a device-defining feature

The iPhone 4S has some changes under the hood that improve general performance, and a much better camera for mobile shutterbugs. But the feature that most distinguishes it from its predecessor is arguably Siri; or at least, Siri is the most marketable and obvious difference. Apple has proven it thinks this way with recent iPhone 4S ad campaigns, many of which focus entirely on Siri.

In that regard, Siri is a key selling feature for the 4S. If Siri is available on the iPhone 4, there’s less of an obvious reason for customers to upgrade to a more expensive iPhone 4S.

2. Siri is an iOS ecosystem perk

Apple has differentiated its iPhone line more than it usually does this time around, by keeping the 3GS for free alongside the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. So long as its profit margins are similar for each line, Apple may not care which it sells more of. In other words, if Siri on the iPhone 4 seems able to drive iPhone sales higher in general, Apple could be less concerned about keeping it as a device-specific feature. Still, the pressure from investors and public perception to make the latest device also the best-selling is considerable.

As an ecosystem advantage, Siri serves Apple best by making it to as many devices as possible. That way, it stands a much better chance of being yet another reason users are reluctant to switch to another platform. If this is really what’s behind Siri, Apple may choose to put it on as many currently sold devices as possible.

Siri is a beta product

Another thing to note is that Siri is listed by Apple as a beta product. The five-hour service outage last week brought that point home. While in beta, Apple is wise to keep the initial user pool relatively small by limiting it to just iPhone 4S users, compared to if it had launched on all current devices simultaneously. Once it gets the bugs ironed out, and brings its North Carolina data center up to speed, it may consider expanding the pool to other devices, without incurring too much risk of inconsistent, problematic service.

Likely outcome

I think it’s likely Apple will eventually bring Siri to other older devices, but maybe not all that are technically capable of running it. The iPhone 4, for instance, might be left out if Apple prioritizes sales of the 4S above older hardware, which I still think it’s apt to do despite its diversified smartphone product line. Putting Siri on other technically capable devices, however, like the iPad 2, serves the ultimate goal of making Siri a platform-defining feature, without immediately threatening the sales of more current hardware. Adding those devices will also let Apple scale the service at a moderate pace, whereas potentially adding the entire iPhone 4 user pool would represent a huge increase in demand on infrastructure resources.

What do you think? Will Apple freely spread around the Siri love, or keep the personal assistant’s magical pixie dust in reserve to boost the sales of future devices?

16 Responses to “How likely is it that Siri comes to other iOS devices?”

  1. Apple is dropping the ball if they don’t put it on the iPad 2. Siri can be a great differentiator from the latest non-iPad tablets — the Kindle Fire does not have a microphone. Kindle Fire owners will be jealous of the voice capability of the iPad.

  2. If Apple don’t bring it to the iPad2 then I will look to buy my next table with this kind of interface, regardless of who provides it. It would increase my productivity significantly if I have Siri on iPad.

  3. Siri on the iPad 2 by the end of they year BETTER happen… This whining about being ‘beta’ and having it on iPhone 4 and now the 3GS is utter non-sense. The iPad 2 is actually a BATTER platform for Siri to be on than even the 4s because it’s ‘fixed’ to a location more than a phone… If you want to stabilize something, you put it on a ‘stable’, fixed platform before you throw it in a dump truck to be run all around a city day in and day out… ESPECIALLY, if they claim it’s sill ‘beta’….BS…

  4. rick gregory

    If they bring it to devices that don’t have 3G they also need to consider how to deal with the various requests that assume location knowledge. “Siri, remind me to call Bob S when I get to the office” requires knowing where the office is. You can use wifi to some extent for location and that might work, but they need to think about how that affects bringing Siri to the iPod Touch, wifi only iPads, etc. Also, such requests don’t make sense on a Mac usually, so Apple would need to consider how Siri fits there.

    I’m sure they ARE looking at all of this, but won’t release it until it makes sense.

  5. physical

    I think that Apple will keep Siri 4S specific until the iPhone 5 shows up, when they will release Siri to lesser models. With a new flagship device visually different, and more compelling reasons to upgrade for the non-technical user, they will no longer need gimmicks like Siri to sell the phone

    As for releasing Siri for the iPad: Remember, the argument why Siri should be on the iPhone 4 is fundamentally similar to the argument why Siri should be on the original iPad. I am guessing that the iPad 3 will have Siri, then when the general release of Siri comes along, former devices will get it as well.

    Siri on an iPod? Maybe… because Siri depends on network access it is likely that we won’t see that for quite some time. It has felt like apple is de-emphasizing the iPod touch. They would prefer that you have an older iPhone instead of buying an iPod touch.

    Comments have brough up Siri on Desktop and Laptop Macs. That is a fun concept. I think that users would feel the novelty of the idea for some time.
    My issue is that Siri isn’t really that useful on a PC. Siri does have some value when are trying to perform a complicated task and overcome a simplistic interface (like tablets and phones). PCs are significantly more capable in their input methods, and it would be more powerful to just use the standard approach of keyboard+mouse.

  6. Siri will be on as many devices as possible because it helps eliminate any reliance on Google search. Apple will disengage from all Google products as soon as possible, the end game in the war with Google, I for one can’t wait,

  7. If I recall it correctly the beta tag was for the availability of languages or cultures, not reliability.

    Coming back to culture, recognition is not equal understanding. This is not about translating strings into a different language, context is not bunch of points/pixels. So Apple has cut their work out for them specially if the system is not self-organizing and has to be programmed for cutesy answers, they better fit the culture.

    As for putting it on older devices, there is another thing to think about. The early adopters represent a different culture than people going/staying with an outdated device. The culture about cutesy answers might be easier to predict for the new shiny crowd.

  8. There was something mentioned about the processor on the 4S being the defining point on running Siri, but as it now has the same processor as the iPad2, there is no reason to my mind why it couldn’t be rolled out at least to that hardware, however we are talking about Apple here and they are focused on selling as many 4S’s as they can, once the dust settles I think they will roll Siri onto older platforms at least to the iPhone 4 and iPad2!

    • Agreed. The author ( Darrell Etherington ) posed the wrong question. The right question would be “How likely is it that Siri comes to other iOS devices and Macs?”

  9. Wasn’t Siri created by developers as an app, then bought by Apple and developed into a feature?

    Thus meaning, people must have had siri on their phones/devices before the iPhone4s? If it worked as an app (Pre 4s) then it should be fine for it to be installed on older models surely?