iPhone 4S launches in India, but can Siri understand Indian accents?

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By Charman-Anderson /  28 Nov 2011 , 18:06

Apple’s iPhone 4S was launched in India on Friday by Aircel and Airtel. In a midnight ceremony in New Delhi, actor Nidhi Subbaiah handed out handsets to the very first customers.

Reaction, however, was mixed. At Rs 44,500 for the 16GB model, Rs 50,900 for 32GB and going up to Rs 57,500 for the top end 64GB model, it certainly isn’t cheap. Yet some people were happy to pay so much:

Stockbroker Punit Thakkar, 24, was one of the first people to book the new iPhone worth R 45,500 on the Apple site. “I’m a big fan and feel it’s worth the price,” he says, adding, “Nothing beats their features and apps. And now the iPhone 4S features iCloud, where you can save data and access it from anywhere, even if you lose the phone.”

Buying an iPhone 4S would mean sacrificing things, or is simply out of reach.Reuters

But for others, buying an iPhone 4S would mean sacrificing things, or is simply out of reach.

“Folks here are disappointed that the 4S is priced so high, but excited that the model is finally coming to India,” said IBNLive‘s Jaimon Joseph.

Although there was a crowd in New Delhi, with sales still being made at 1am, Firstpost staff in Mumbai checked out a couple of stores and found them to be free of queues. DigitalInspiration also saw no reports of queues. This is in contrast to the launches of the iPhone and iPad, which both saw huge excitement.

One of the most exciting aspects of the 4S is the introduction of Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant. The big question has been, ‘Can Siri understand Indian accents?’ The answer appears to be, ‘Mostly.’

For Indians fluent in English and with clear enunciation, Siri seems to cope just fine.

And commenters on DigitalInspiration’s critical post defended Siri, saying that it could understand even thick accents, although it stumbled on Indian names. In fairness, I’m sure there are some thick British and American accents that could confuse Siri, although I’ve yet to try it out!

What might cause more of a problem is users who aren’t fluent English speakers, or who speak heavily localised versions of English that rely on loan words from other languages. If anyone has a 4S and wants to test that theory, do let us know how it goes in the comments.

Siri isn’t officially supported in India, so a much bigger problem is the simple lack of local data, such as business, restaurant and venue listings. Whether Apple eventually provides full support to India is unclear, but its local advertising doesn’t mention Siri, so we may have a long wait.

Indian iPhone 4S users are already experiencing their first Siri outage, as Apple servers fail to connect in India, Europe and South Korea, at least. Siri outages have happened before but, typically, Apple doesn’t say why or when service will be resumed.

Do you have an iPhone 4S? How well does Siri work for you? And do you think it’s good value for money?


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