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A5 Mystery Solved (Why Siri Won't Run On iPhone 4) 239

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-do-it-no-siree dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Anna Leach reports that Siri support has been a contentious issue for owners of earlier iPhones, but a recent filing from Audience shows that Siri won't run on the iPhone 4 because the phone's chip can't handle it. Linley Gwennap of the Linley Group cracked one of the secrets of the new iPhone's A5 chip after working out that it packs some serious audio cleaning power not available on the iPhone 4's A4 chip. Audience has developed technology that removes most or all of the background noise when someone places a cell-phone call from a restaurant, airport, or other noisy location. The iPhone 4S integrates Audience's 'EarSmart' technology directly into the A5 processor, improving its technology to handle 'far-field speech,' which means holding the device at arm's length rather than directly in front of the mouth. Apple has also licensed the Audience technology for a 'new generation of processor IP,' which may mean that the forthcoming A6 processor will appear in the iPad 3 and iPhone 5. 'Why Apple has not simply purchased Audience is unclear. An acquisition would prevent Audience's other major customer, Samsung, from using the technology to compete with Apple,' says Gwennap. 'The company may be hedging its bets, as it could switch to Qualcomm's Fluence noise-reduction technology in the future.'"
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A5 Mystery Solved (Why Siri Won't Run On iPhone 4)

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  • by zonker (1158) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:20PM (#38947015) Homepage Journal

    Or at least not the whole story. It has been shown already that a jailbroken iPhone 4 can run Siri just fine.

    • by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me@hoFO ... m minus language> on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:25PM (#38947055) Homepage Journal

      Prior to Siri being released it was an APP in the App store, folks I knew used the silly thing and no it wasn't called Siri. Apple had purchased the technology\application and about a week before Siri was released on the 4s the app stopped working as the back end servers were shutdown. I never loaded the app but wish I had because while Siri is interesting it certainly wasn't so interesting as to be a compelling upgrade from an iPhone 4. Siri, like the app before it, is a work in progress for sure! If I can recall the app name or get hold of the friend that was using it I'll post the app name - obviously it's no longer available in the app store and hasn't been for some time now.

      • by poetmatt (793785) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:26PM (#38947071) Journal

        Yep.

        It's pretty funny to say "it's hardware" when there's nothing preventing apple from running it in software except choice (the restriction of the customer's, that is).

        This is what you get when you run apple. Literally - you let them dictate the software that you can run, this is the result. Don't like it? Don't use apple.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:35PM (#38947171)

          Well, reading TFS, it says they "licensed a new generation of processor IP" -- but if you ask me, that sounds suspiciously like "licensed some DSP code that runs on any sufficiently-powerful DSP, but only paid for a license for their new chip (and pay royalties on the DSP code for every A5, whether it runs Siri or not)" -- cheaper than paying licensing for all manufactured iPhone 4 units (whether or not they use Siri) and provides an incentive to buy the latest. There's absolutely no reason something like that would be implemented in dedicated silicon, it just doesn't make sense. And yeah, it's possible the A4's DSP isn't powerful enough, but I have a hard time seeing how speech cleanup could be more demanding than x264 de/encoding...

          • by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:48PM (#38947295)

            Well, reading TFS, it says they "licensed a new generation of processor IP" -- but if you ask me, that sounds suspiciously like "licensed some DSP code that runs on any sufficiently-powerful DSP, but only paid for a license for their new chip

            That would make the statement "Siri can only run on the A5" true, then. It's just that the "why" is not the most obvious why. The why is a legal/contractual why.

            I don't know why anybody cares, Siri isn't very useful at the present time anyway.

            • by Belial6 (794905)
              Obviously it isn't true. Siri has been widely reported to be working on the A4 chip. This is clearly a 'May' situation instead of a 'Can' situation.
              • by BasilBrush (643681) on Monday February 06, 2012 @09:52PM (#38948715)

                There's a difference between running and running as well as on the 4S. The demo of noise reduction is impressive.
                http://www.audience.com/demos/transmit-noise-en.php [audience.com]
                It's easy to see why with that noise reduction, Siri would be much more accurate than without it, in real scenarios.

                Apple obviously wants Siri to be judged on it's best performance. They have a reputation for quality to maintain.

                • by milkmage (795746)

                  agreed. it WILL work on other chipsets, but w/o the background noise scrubbing, it will/could be a lot less accurate... so Apple doesn't enable it because of perceived quality issues .. i did a totally unscientific experiment with Siri. Tuned the radio to the news, cranked the volume up, put the phone right in front of the speaker and asked it to set the timer. it "listened" for longer than it would have w/o the radio on, but only "heard" my question and set the timer.

                  next i did the same thing but didn't as

                • That argument doesn't really hold water though. For iphone 4 they could just only enable Siri when the proximity sensor was active.

            • by Truedat (2545458) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @06:30AM (#38951373)

              I don't know why anybody cares, Siri isn't very useful at the present time anyway.

              It's right that you qualified this, but all the same I find it incredibly useful right now for a limited number of scenarios. For example to set an alarm I just hold down the home button and say "wake me at six" - that's it, alarm set.

              Another example, I'm walking down the street after work and want to send a text to the wife that maybe I'll be late. Well I just hold the phone to my ear, say "send a text" and take it from there. Could never do this obviously using the touch interface.

              One more, locating a particular song: "play me Always crashing in the Same Car". That would normally take me ages to do.

              All those thing may seem trivial to you, but not having all the options buried deep down to me, seems obviously the way to go. The nerd in me thinks of it as all commands being the same short distance away from me, the discrete metric space.

          • Why guess when details of Audience's earSmart technology is easily available in the web. It's a custom DSP (which of course will contain software). It's not software that "any sufficiently-powerful DSP".

        • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Monday February 06, 2012 @08:03PM (#38947901)

          I don't think you understood the content of the article. 4 and 4S can indeed run Siri, but Siri does it better in the very environments where it's important. Without the noise reduction hardware, Siri doesn't work nearly well enough on an iPhone 4. Lets face it. If you're at home and you need something you have your computer and a full keyboard in front of you. You would probably use them. Siri is typically used out and about where the background noise is the worst. The two have been compared, and in a quiet environment, they are comparable. put them in a noisy room and the iPhone 4 can't compete with the 4S.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by ColdWetDog (752185)

            The big problem with Siri isn't background noise. Siri just isn't all that smart. If you want to do simple things - send a simple text, it sort of works - just like voice commands have sort of worked since, oh, around 2000. If you want to do complex things it sometimes works, but very often screws up. When it screws up, you end up keyboarding the problem. Might as well go for the keyboard in the first place.

            • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Monday February 06, 2012 @08:32PM (#38948075)

              I'm guessing you've never used it given your response. Texting works very well, assuming you don't have some odd accent it's not programmed to handle. General queries also work well. I find the word recognition to be good enough for day to day. Comparing any voice recognition app to something from 2000 is a stretch in the extreme, and a flat out lie at best. If this was easy, it would be on every platform out there. Take a look at the recent Android attempts to duplicate it.

              As to functionality, I find it works relative well for day to day tasks, general texting, and simple management. Then again, I'm not expecting Star Trek in a phone, but rather a phone that does a few things well.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bolthole (122186)

          To support the parent post, please note this:
          http://www.vlingo.com/apps/iphone [vlingo.com]

          It's free. It does voice recognition. It does web searches, map searches, texts, emails, and facebook/twitter updates.

          And it somehow manages to run okay on the iphone 4...

          AND EVEN THE 3GS.

          The only thing it lacks is the fancy-schmancy siri AI back-end. Which is no no way dependant on the cpu front end you hold in your hand.

        • Given how server- and bandwidth-intensive Siri is, Apple may also have wanted to restrict it to the 4S simply to limit the number of people using it.
      • by DavidinAla (639952) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:29PM (#38947105)
        Actually, it WAS called Siri before Apple bought it. I still have a copy of the app on my iPhone, although it's useless now since it won't communicate with the server. The original version wasn't exactly what shipping with the iPhone 4S. Yes, it's the same basic technology, but that's it. For whatever reason, it seems as though Apple didn't think the technology was good enough without the add-ons that come with the 4S.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, it WAS called Siri before Apple bought it. I still have a copy of the app on my iPhone, although it's useless now since it won't communicate with the server.

          So, does itunes give you your money back for the purchase? If not, sounds like a good class action lawsuit.

          For whatever reason, it seems as though Apple didn't think the technology was good enough without the add-ons that come with the 4S.

          My ass. Apple just wants you to buy a new phone.

      • by Aerorae (1941752)
        uh yes the app was called siri back then, I used it myself for over a year. I still have the .ipa file.
      • by jigamo (1554711)

        You're incorrect about the app having a different name. Apple bought Siri in 2010. [businessinsider.com] The app, called Siri, continued to be available in Apple's app store even after the company was purchased. It was removed from the store when the iPhone 4S was released. [tuaw.com]

    • by larry bagina (561269) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:27PM (#38947073) Journal
      Yesterday (after reading the article), I did some Siri tests with a 4S and my girlfriend's jailbroken 4. For all the tests, the phones were next to each other and I only spoke once for both of them. With no/minimal background noise, they had the same results. With the tele on in the background, the 4S was much more reliable.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Strange that other manufacturers seem to be able to integrate the same tech entirely in software. The A4 isn't that much slower than Samsung CPUs and has the same NEON instructions. Talk time is comparable so if there is a special DSP in the iPhone it doesn't seem to offer any advantage. Sound quality is no different.

      • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Monday February 06, 2012 @08:10PM (#38947943) Homepage Journal

        With the tele on in the background, the 4S was much more reliable.

        It is easy to have a poke at Apple as trying to force people to upgrade but there are other reasons for them to be cautious. If Siri did have dubious performance then it would be dismissed as a half-arsed gimmick, likely damaging it's reputation for a long time. As there are a lot more older iPhones out there being used than there are 4S models the majority of people experiencing Siri would be doing so with inferior sound quality and judging it accordingly.

        As it is it looks pretty cool but I will probably keep using my 3GS for at least one more generation if it keeps on ticking.

      • by norpy (1277318)

        It is also noticeably worse at understanding you when using an external headset rather than the internal microphone.

        Even though voice calls on that headset are clear in quite noisy environments, I have had some decent conversations while riding my bike that had a lot less "can you hear me now" than using the built in speakerphone while driving.

    • by Lucky75 (1265142)
      Yup. It's mainly because the server power needed to process Siri commands is pretty large and Apple didn't want to overload the servers.
    • I think the key to the correctness of the story and your post for that matter lies largely in the rather subjective definition of "just fine".
  • Oh, great... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:21PM (#38947027)

    improving its technology to handle 'far-field speech,' which means holding the device at arm's length rather than directly in front of the mouth

    I thought cell phone users were annoying enough when they constantly raised their voice as if the other end were deaf; now people are going to be yelling at their phones from across the room.

    • by nman64 (912054) *

      The more things change, the more they remain the same.

    • by Gilmoure (18428) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:39PM (#38947203) Journal

      Wait until they set up the iPhone to hang on the wall, with an earpiece you hold up to your head when making a call.

    • Don't you remember the Nextel craze?

      People's phones would chirp and scream at them and they would press a button, it would chirp at them again and they would scream right back.

      Some people would have extended conversations this way. In the middle of a room of annoyed people.

      Maddening.

    • My biggest pet peeve with cell phone users are those who *always* use the speakerphone. It's bad enough I have to listen to your side of the conversation. I don't need to hear the other side of it.

      And even worse are those who have it on speakerphone *and* hold it within 6 inches of their face. Being on the other end of such calls sounds like someone crinkling aluminum foil ... it's barely decipherable as words.

      It's a phone. Use it like a phone. Stick it to the side of your head. You know, where the ea

    • by tombeard (126886)

      No, now that our government approved tracking/monitoring device can hear side conversations as well its utility in enhanced.

      • There is that...every iPhone user a walking, talking surveillance machine. I wouldn't even go so far as to say Apple planned it that way - but if the capability exists, someone in the ever more empowered "A" agencies will see utilizing it as...part of their job.
    • Why would they yell across the room? Are they going to hold the home button down until it chirps, walk away to the opposite end of the room, and shout "CALL MOM"?

  • by Superken7 (893292) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:25PM (#38947065) Journal

    I have tried Siri on a jailbroken iPhone 4 and it works just as well, I did not notice any difference.
    I doubt this is a major reason for not enabling this on the iPhone 4, especially when taking into account how little difference "just" the improved camera and a dual core processor is to most users.

    I would think the improved hardware sensor played a major role, but again, Siri worked just as well for me on an iPhone 4.

    Also, I'm surprised that they advertise as "removing most or all of the background noise", while Siri did a fairly good job of knowing who was talking to her, it gets confused too often, which means that it won't work very well if other people in the room are talking.

  • Mystery? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Evro (18923) * <evandhoffman@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:27PM (#38947075) Homepage Journal

    I always assumed the answer was something to the effect of:


    boolean siriEnabled() {
        return (system.cpu.version >= 5.0);
    }

    Is anything else really needed? They don't want to support it on older models so you have to buy the new one. Conversely, if you really want the feature, buy the latest phone. Personally I find Siri an overhyped piece of junk. I have a 4S and I disabled it because it kept getting activated randomly and rarely understood my commands. Plus for the basic stuff like weather, I can just open the app. The anecdotal crap like "Will I need an umbrella today?" is just a dumb gimmick to me. But anyway, the fact is that the 4S is really an incremental improvement over the 4, and Siri is the one feature Apple can point to on the 4S as a differentiator, so they enforce that differentiation.

    • @"randomly activated": reminds me of a client I had that called me in because gibberish kept appearing on his screen when using MS Word. I looked at this and that, and then realized he'd left the voice recognition on and it was inserting the interpreted speech. I called him over to the desk and said, "Watch this," turned to his mic and said, "Microsoft sucks." It inserted "Microsoft socks". Close enough.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:29PM (#38947097) Homepage

    Possibly true: Siri uses a unique feature of the iPhone 4S.
    False: Siri won't run on the iPhone 4

    Siri runs just fine on jailbroken a iPhone 4, and it ran just fine on an iPhone 4 Before apple removed it [google.com]. Kudos to the authors for enhancing Siri to use new features of the A5 chip. Good job to the researcher who figured this out. But shame on anyone who uses this as FUD to make Apple look like they didn't cripple their own product to force people to upgrade.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:42PM (#38947233)

      Or maybe they wanted Siri to work really well, - even if there's background noise.

      Apple's now defunct Newton was laughed at over the original version's poor handwriting recognition. Even though it improved immensely over time, lots of folks never got over that initial bad impression.

  • Mine works fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by anethema (99553) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:31PM (#38947127) Homepage
    I am using Spire to enable Siri on my i4 and it seems to work fine. I can use it fine while it is sitting in the dock in my truck about 4 feet from my mouth with tire, engine, and heater noise going. Not sure if it works better on a 4S but there are quite a few people using Siri on jailbroken i4's without problems.
    • by Pausanias (681077)

      Do you also have a 4S with a proxy server installed? Where are all these people getting access to a Siri proxy? Are you trying to tell me I can install Spire and it will "just work?"

      • by anethema (99553)
        No I use a proxy online. Modmyi recently posted an article about working online servers.
    • Tire, engine and heater noise are easier to filter out. Try it with the radio on, or while someone else is speaking at the same time.

  • Siri is interesting, and probably a good start, but the noise filtering routines need work. When I try to use Siri in my noisy, diesel powered Jeep, well let me just say that the results can be quite amusing. I wonder, to improve the routines does the chip have to be redone?
    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      In my rather normal Mazda hatchback, my phone can be in its cradle in the dashboard, about three feet away, and the transcription is generally faultless; definitely different results when I try to use it with the radio on :)

  • Is this audio cleanup technology on for "normal" use I.e. making phone calls? Can it be switched on or off in Apps so that, for example, a program like Skype could use it? Maybe Apple should provide an API for it (I assume they haven't already).

    Is it (the algorithms) very processor intensive? Would that preclude a software only version of it running as a background process on a jail broken phone? Will the (rumored) upcoming quad core chips be able to run it without dedicated silicon?

    By the way, I recent

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:48PM (#38947291)
    There is already a dozen comments or so about how the article is wrong because Siri works on a jailbroken iPhone 4. That was never the point of the article. We know that it will work because of the jailbreaks. The question is why Apple didn't allow it to work on the 4. The article suggests a hardware limitation in that while the A4 chip can run Siri it lacks the much better audio processing the A5 has to remove background noise. Design wise this means that the Siri was meant to be used at a distance instead of always next to user's mouth. Also this means the 4S should be able to handle noise better. This is speculation but a reasonable one as I can see Apple not releasing a feature for quality reasons even if people disagree it is really a valid reason for them.
    • by tomhath (637240)
      Design wise, Siri was one of the "you're not cool unless you have this" features that Apple used to dupe their customers into buying a new phone.
      • I'm pretty sure every manufacturer tries to get new features in their phones so that you will buy them. The only people that seemed overly concerned whether a feature is cool are the fanboys and the haters. Most people see a new feature and merely add it to the plus category when deciding on a model.
    • Except that there's a difference between "not releasing" for older iPhone models and "removing from" older iPhone models. Yes, I know Siri-as-on-4S is not the same as what was available from the App Store before.

      Think of it, if you will, as follows:
      Apple buys Rovio Mobile. Then they take Angry Birds, and make a better version - one that uses the reality distortion field sensor in the iPhone 5, perhaps. Then they disable Angry Birds on the 4S and every model prior, citing quality issues on earlier models

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:49PM (#38947305) Journal

    "'Why Apple has not simply purchased Audience is unclear."

    Perhaps it's because Audience doesn't want to be bought? Even without Siri, it sounds like that tech would be useful in EVERY SINGLE PHONE - would make conversations a bit easier in noisy locations.

    Audience probably figures that by broadly licensing the tech to every phone company in the world, they'll make MORE MONEY that Apple would be willing to offer them. At least, they might be betting on it.

    • A moment's more reflection, and not only does the tech sound useful for every phone - sounds useful for any device with a microphone - video cameras, sound boards, computers, public address systems, teleconferencing systems, voice control systems in cars, voice control systems for customer support call-center use, etc.

      It sounds like one of those rare instances of a technology which has almost universal applications.

      • by idontgno (624372)

        Yeah. And Apple owning the implementation of the technology would be a substantial roadblock those who want the ubiquity of public closed-circuit TV with the power of Echelon. Every microphone being monitored, decoded, and analyzed by AI, producing a constant flow of actionable intelligence.

        No, you're right, I'm probably just being paranoid.

        • by Baloroth (2370816)
          And Apple owning the tech would be a roadblock how, exactly? It's not like someone doing that would have any qualms about using the tech illegaly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:54PM (#38947355)

    Hold on, so there's a cell phone of a particular OS which appears to have different capabilities and thus can't run the same software as its immediate predecessor. And both of them are on the market at the same time, you say?

    Wait, wait... there's... somewhere in my mind... I'm remembering something... there's a word there I remember from long ago... it... it starts with an 'F'... F... F... Fra... Frag... FragmentatiALL GLORY AND HONOR TO THE ALMIGHTY SAINT JOBS AS IT WAS WRITTEN AT JANUARY 1, 1904 AND SHALL BE UNTIL HIS GLORIOUS SECOND COMING! ALL GLORY TO HIS AVATAR, DOGCOW! ALL GLORY! SOSUMI! SOSUMI!

    Woah, sorry, guys. Don't know what just hit me. Anyway, as I was about to say, the... um... word... it... oh, forget it. I've got to get in line for the iPad 3! I heard that before his ascension into... before his death, Jobs himself sweated over the first batch of plastic cases! Oh boy!

    • by Lucky75 (1265142)
      I wish I didn't use my modpoints up. That post was actually pretty funny. Shame on whoever modded it -1.
      • I'm surprised it's gotten to 4. Usually any post that criticizes apple, not matter how true or funny, gets modded down as troll. The irony being that it seams like the real trolls mod these down.
  • by airfoobar (1853132) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:56PM (#38947369)
    And lulz are had by all! :D
  • by WarpedCore (1255156) on Monday February 06, 2012 @07:03PM (#38947445)
    http://www.ifixit.com/blog/2011/05/17/unveiled-audience-powers-iphone-4s-impressive-noise-cancellation/ [ifixit.com]

    There's been an Audience chip included in the iPhone 4 since June 2010. When iFixit tore down the iPhone 4S and noticed the chip wasn't there, it was assumed that the chip was either integrated into the A5 design or that Apple opted to do noise-cancellation without the need of an Audience chip.

    It's true that the A4 chip doesn't have an Audience subprocessor in it but it doesn't mean that the iPhone 4 doesn't have the chip included somewhere else on its motherboard. The conclusion that the iPhone 4 can't do Siri is absolute garbage. The conclusion that the iPhone 4 can't do Siri technically because of this kind audio subprocessor is not being included in the iPhone 4's design needs to have their head examined and start doing some research. This entire thing is hogwash.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Still does not explain why siri will not work on my ipad 2.

  • 'Why Apple has not simply purchased Audience is unclear. An acquisition would prevent Audience's other major customer, Samsung, from using the technology to compete with Apple,' says Gwennap

    Maybe Samsung has contracts with Audience that prevent dropping Samsung while Samsung phones depend on Audience. Or maybe Samsung has some other methods of protecting itself from being screwed that way. They seem obviously necessary to mitigate the risk of depending on a small company like Audience. One might as well won

  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:10PM (#38948817) Journal

    The fact that the A5 processor incorporates some fancy noise cancellation technology goes beyond enhancing Siri voice recognition, and explains the startling difference in speakerphone and handset call quality I have noticed after upgrading from the iPhone 4. The 4S is easily one of the best sounding smartphones I have used in recent memory.

    Not that iPhone 4 call quality is terrible, it's just that the 4S is that much better.

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