It's widely believed that Apple will announce the iPhone 5 at its Oct. 4 press conference, but besides being slightly thinner and more powerful, details about the next-generation iPhone have been kept heavily under wraps. Until now.
For some time, various reports and news sites all confirmed the same set of hardware details: The new iPhone is said to sport a dual-core A5 processor, an 8-megapixel backlit camera sensor for photography in low-light settings, about 1 GB of RAM, and Qualcomm chips that will allow the phone to operate and adapt to CDMA and GSM networks around the world.
However, the real story here isn't the hardware, but the software.
Apple purchased a company in June 2010 called Siri, which had an iPhone app that functioned as a personal assistant for your phone. Apparently, iPhone 5's greatest feature is the fully-realized version of Siri's technology: A new app called Assistant.
Assistant, according to 9to5Mac's sources, will replace and expand upon Apple's former voice-activated control system called Voice Control. To activate Assistant, the user only needs to hold down the home button for a couple of seconds, and a microphone interface slides up from the bottom in a clever animation which only takes up about the bottom fourth of the display. Users can even reach the interface while still on the lock screen.
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While Assistant comes with an Info button to help users grasp the comprehensive command set, all users need to do to get Assistant working is to simply ask their iPhone for information, or tell it what they want it to do. According to 9to5Mac, Assistant can send text messages (complete with read-back functionality to ensure the content is correct), send e-mails, set reminders, find directions, and even answer math questions, thanks to integration with Wolfram Alpha's knowledge engine.
The Assistant feature will also come with Find my Friends, which is thought to be an extension of the Find my iPhone application which allows users to voluntarily share their location with other iOS device users in real-time. For instance, if you ask, Where is Dave? Assistant will be able to tell you where he is if he also uses the service.
Thankfully, Assistant organizes everything into an easy-to-follow conversation view, which appears as a back-and-forth text conversation with the user and their iPhone. So when the user asks, Set up meeting with Dave, Assistant will respond aloud, Which e-mail address should Dave be notified at, work or personal?, and also display the entire conversation in a traditional bubble thread. Then, once Dave has responded, the iPhone will make the appointment. Assistant is also integrated into iPhone 5's SMS and calendar views, so the appointment can be further confirmed on those two other platforms.
On top of the features found in Assistant, the new iPhone 5 will integrate Dictation, a Nuance speech-to-text feature used for composing text messages. Simply put, the user taps a microphone icon found on their iPhone's keyboard, speaks, and the speech magically becomes text.
Apple has been keeping everything about iPhone 5 under wraps, and while its features may have gotten out, nothing is known about its outside appearance. Many have conjectured the iPhone 5 will be a slightly thinner model, but many sources claim the next-gen prototypes look exactly like iPhone 4s. Regardless, everything about the iPhone 5 will soon be known once Tim Cook takes the stage on Tuesday, Oct. 4.