Tripped, Fell, Bought a new iPhone.

So far, so phone. I had an iPhone 3G, so the wonders of the iPhone aren’t very new to me, and the iPad means I’ve been playing with iOS5 for a little while now. I’d forgotten how much I liked iOS, to be honest.

So, reviews, then:

News Stand

News Stand is one of the smaller features of iOS, because really it’s a glorified categorisation. Previously, Magazine Apps were Apps, and went into App Places. Now they get automatically put into a drawer called “News Stand” which looks different.

However, since I got the iPad I’ve kind of bought into the “Future of magazines” koolaid. Not that the iPad is, specifically, but that Tablets may be. Paid content on the internet is a business, but not a very big or scalable one. The only people who’ve really made it work is the porn industry.

I’ve been reading three things in News Stand, PC Gamer, Edge and the new Guardian app. All are notable because the content is also available for free on the site, so it’s linkable and sharable, but all the sites suffer the great rolling news tragedy. Writing for rolling 24 hour access sites is speed, writing for tomorrow’s newspaper is speed and craft. Plus, instant updates tend to favour the Now over the Important, and the craft of a magazine or newspaper format, with the analysis of what’s important that will *stay* important and thus “Front Page News” is valuable.

They download into off-line form automatically as they become available, and from then it doesn’t matter if you’re about to go into a tunnel when you want to read the next page. The text is as big as you want it to be, you can fit the last two week’s newspapers – in searchable format – into a space the size of The Very Hungry Catapiller. Plus, the Guardian one’s free until January.

Siri

Siri is the most impressive piece of voice recognition software I’ve ever used.

It manages this by two methods. The first is by being limited in scope. It’s not that much different from the old Infocom lexographical parsers for adventure games. It recognises what you want to do partly by matching it against things you *might* have said and choosing the most likely.

Second, it cheats. I realised this when I wandered to do the laundry under our towerblock, and Siri stopped working. I don’t know *what* it sends out to get analysed, I’m assuming it’s not a full voice recording, but it doesn’t work without network.

You can use shortcuts for people, too. Like this:

“Who is my Girlfriend”
“What is your girlfriend’s name?”
“Fyrheafoc”
“Okay. Do you want me to remember that Fyrheafoc is your Girlfriend?”
“Yes”
“Okay Aquarion, I’ll remember that Fyrheafoc is your girlfriend”

And so it does. Kind of. If your “me” contact is a contact that ‘belongs’ to a synchronised Exchange account (or, at least, with Google Sync) it doesn’t seem to be able to create a record of “girlfriend”, and logs the contact name as “Spouse” or – amusingly – “Manager”, and entirely forgetting the ‘girlfriend’ bit (so you go though the above roundabout again). I got around this by creating an iCloud-synced contact called “Aquarion” and setting that as my “Me” contact, and everything after that was fine.

But the most annoying thing?

This:

“What is the distance from London to Glasgow?”

For questions that Siri knows the answer to, it answers.

For questions that it doesn’t, it checks to see if it’s something Wolframalpha knows.

For everything else, it says “You can search the web”.

The exception is for things that the US version of Siri, which has maps and location information enabled, knows, but the Non-US versions don’t. For those, you get this:

Siri Sorry

Now, the fact that it launched without location data outside the States sucks. But:

"Ask Wolfram Alpha the distance from London to Glasgow"


"Search the web for distance from London to Glasgow"

If you can’t do it, Siri, please pass it over the things that can, like you do with everything else.

This comes across as “It sucks”, but it really doesn’t. It’s right almost all the time, and when it isn’t it’s almost always because I wasn’t speaking clearly. But the closeness makes the wrong bits so much more infuriating.