Is Apple Releasing a Voice Interface for the iPhone? (NewsFactor)

September 30, 2011

With the iPhone 5 being unveiled next week, the rumor mill is working overtime. In fact, even the invitation for the Oct. 4 event, which reads “Let’s talk iPhone,” has sprouted rumors that the new model will offer new voice-recognition features that could transform the way smartphone interaction works.

Previous Apple invitations have included hints about the coming product. If the “let’s talk” invitation is a hint, the voice-recognition features could represent a fully integrated voice-control interface that accompanies, and in some cases replaces, the touch interaction.

iPhone, Come Here

This new voice control could include the ability for a voice-based virtual assistant to access data stored in calendar, contacts, music files and other locations, and use them in conversations between the device and the user. The possibility of new voice features is supported by the fact that Apple bought voice-recognition application provider Siri in 2010. The company has previously released some voice-to-text features.

Various Apple-watching sites are describing the voice-recognition features as a dramatic change, not only allowing the user to schedule an appointment or find a retailer, but offering a revolutionary voice-based interface that once again changes the expectation for smartphones. The aptly named Assistant, according to some reports, will also be able to ask the user questions if, for instance, it’s not clear which phone number to use.

Hopes that the newest iPhone could support 4G transmission technology are not high, given reports that the company is waiting for smaller and less power-hungry 4G chips that won’t be available until 2012. There have been reports in past months that the company was testing iPhones with 4G Long-Term Evolution support, but the consensus is that, for Apple, elegant style will triumph over speed, at least until the new LTE chips are available.

A research vice president from China Unicom was quoted this week by a Japanese blog as saying at the Macworld Asia conference that the iPhone 5 will support HSPA+, a not-quite-true-4G technology with speeds up to 21 Mbps, compared with 7.2 Mbps for 3G.

Venue, Cases, T-Mobile

Some speculation has also centered on the choice of venue for next week’s event. Instead of being held at the large Moscone Center in San Francisco, the event will take place at the company’s headquarters in nearby Cupertino, which means a smaller audience and could portend a smaller rollout, such as the launch of the iPhone 4S instead of the 5.

However, there are reports that AT&T retail outlets already have received third-party cases for the 5, with a design somewhat different from the 4 — including a tapered look and a mute switch on the opposite side.

There are also reports that Apple’s internal inventory system shows three new iPod Touch models, likely in the same 8 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB configurations, as well as updated iPhone 4 models and a next-generation iPhone, with a dual-core A5 processor and 1GB of working memory. Some observers have suggested that the next-generation device will, in fact, be marketed as the iPhone 4S, not as the 5.

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