When Apple released the newest version of the iPhone, Tim Cook and team boasted the usual upgrades we have come to expect. Pictures would look crisper with the new and improved camera, the phone would make web browsing even faster with the A5 chip, and the design would remain consistent with the other models (despite the public outcry for a refresh of the tried and true formula). Even though these improvements would be enough for Apple addicts to justify the cost of upgrading to the iPhone 4S, the one feature that Apple vowed would change the way we use the device was the inclusion of Siri, the intelligent personal assistant. Now that we can easily conduct searches directly from our phone using our voice and leveraging our current locations for even higher relevance, what will the impact be on mobile search?
Apple sold an estimated 4 million units the first weekend it was available and shipped 35.1 million iPhones in Q2 alone, meaning Siri has quite an audience. According to a Parks Associates study, those users do leverage Siri. One third of iPhone 4S users use Siri to make phone calls, send text messages, and look up information daily. Additionally 55% of 4S users are satisfied with Siri, while only 9% were unsatisfied.
Since Apple is notorious about keeping data close to the vest, we really have no hard numbers to gauge the effect Siri is having on our everyday lives. It has certainly gotten the competitions’ attention though. At the phone’s release, Google’s executive chairman and former chief, Eric Schmidt, conceded that Siri could pose a “competitive threat” to search. This is because Siri is a non-visual medium (users will have the opportunity to gain information without being exposed to an ad) and Google gets revenue by the click. The software also poses a threat to Google because it leverages one of its major competitors to gather a lot of information. Siri has given Yelp Local Search a lift since the software uses it to find local businesses and reviews. Since Yelp generates revenue mainly from local business advertising, display advertising, and from additional services like Yelp Deals, the millions of iPhone 4S users have become a major traffic driver to the site.
This fall Siri will be receiving a facelift as part of the IOS 6 upgrade. Siri will now be able to answer any sports-related question you could throw at it, make a reservation for dinner for 2 through OpenTable and let you know what time The Avengers is playing at the movie theater closest to where you are standing. Siri will launch apps at the sound of your voice and update your Facebook and Twitter account without every pressing a button. Along with the new functionality, Siri will also be fully integrated into the new iPad and available in 15 languages. Time will tell whether this truly changes the way we search, but in the meantime we can look forward to more reminders from Samuel L. Jackson that Siri is the best thing since sliced bread.