Siri is one serious feature for iPhone 4S

Apple introduced the long-awaited next iPhone on Tuesday with the usual amount of fanfare. While the phone itself is an evolutionary step hardware-wise, it will come with a revolutionary new voice assistant technology called "Siri."

First, the specs. The iPhone 4S will sport the same design as the iPhone 4, has a dual-core processor and comes with an 8 megapixel camera with a new custom lens and larger aperture for sharper, brighter images as well as the ability to shoot 1080p video. It is a world phone (finally!) that supports both GSM and CDMA networks and has a completely redesigned antenna system, presumably to fix the "death grip" non-issue.

It will come in three varieties -- 16GB/32GB/64GB for $199/$299/$399, respectively, (with contract). Apple also dropped the price of the iPhone 4 to $99, and the iPhone 3GS is now free. The 4S sadly will not come with any support for LTE 4G networks, as Apple is still unwilling to sacrifice the iPhone's best-in-class battery life for the faster download speeds. Maybe next year. Also, if you're a Sprint customer, you can finally get an iPhone.

By far the biggest feature of the new phone (and one that of course won't run on any other iPhone) is Siri. Instead of reading off a list of preset commands to your phone, you can talk to it like you would a person.

Stuck in traffic? Activate Siri and say "Send a text to my wife telling her I'll be late," and Siri will do just that. When you're finally on your way and hear your new message chime, say "read new message" and your wife's reply will be read aloud to you.

How about asking Siri, "Do I need an umbrella today?" It might reply, "No rain in the forecast but you might want to wear a coat." It's perfect for reminders (which I constantly use on my phone) and is location aware, so as you leave the doctor's office you might say, "Remind me to put my next appointment on my calendar when I get to work" -- a reminder then will pop up when you get to your office.

Some more examples: Say, "I'm in the mood for Mexican tonight," and Siri will tell you the closest Mexican restaurant. Need a wake up call? Say, "Set alarm for 7 a.m." -- done. Want directions? "Where's The Island Packet office located?" and you'll be told how to get there. You can use Siri to control the phone as well, playing your music, setting a timer, dictating an e-mail, etc.

While watching it being demonstrated, my mind kept going back to old "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episodes where Captain Picard or Data would just sit there and have a conversation with their computer while trying to solve some problem. It's not quite Warp Drive or the Transporter, but it's still pretty amazing (come to think of it, Apple is probably working on those things anyway).

The iPhone 4S will be available on Oct. 14. While it's not quite enough for me to justify an upgrade from the iPhone 4, it's a no-brainer for anyone still rockin' the iPhone 3GS.

Morgan Bonner is Pre-Press Manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and Gazette.