The rabid Android robots and fanatic Apple fanbois are at each other\u2019s throats again: This time the bickering is about Siri, the talking artificial intelligence engine baked into iOS 5 and running on the dual-core A5 chip in the new iPhone 4S.\n\tAndroid fans claim their phones have had several Siri-like apps since the beginning of time, or thereabouts. Edwin and Speaktoit spring to mind. Android 2.2 also has Voice Actions, which, like Siri, lets users speak messages (rather than typing them), search the Web, make notes, and, most notably, receive voice turn-by-turn navigation (which Siri does not). Google plans to update Android\u2019s voice input engine with Android 4.0 on the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus.\n\tApple fans counter that the iPhone also had voice-command functions prior to the iPhone 4S, but the iPhone and Siri will do something Android hasn\u2019t been able to do: make voice input and response a standard way of interacting with the phone.\n\tSee: Apple\u2019s Siri Vs. Android\u2019s Voice Actions: Feature Showdown\n\tBefore Siri was baked into iOS 5, it was a popular iPhone app. Fire it up, and Siri would give directions to the nearest coffee shop or gas station, find restaurants, show movie times, among other Web-related tasks. But Apple spent millions to acquire Siri last year because Steve Jobs saw its potential as a full-blown artificial intelligence engine that, when baked into the OS, could access task apps.\n\tFor iPhone owners who don\u2019t have the Siri app, a slimmed-down version of a voice-activated control system has been available. By holding down the home button on the iPhone 3GS, you can gain access to the system \u2013 holding down the home button on the iPhone 4S brings up Siri \u2013 and give it limited commands, from playing songs to calling someone on your contacts list.\n\tI don\u2019t know about Android users, but I rarely used the Siri app and the voice-activated control system.\n\tWhile the Siri app offered a glimpse of the possible future, an early version of the Star Trek computer, it just wasn\u2019t practical. You had to wait for the app to launch and then could only ask very basic questions. I used the voice-activated control system on occasion to make a phone call or play a song, but found it didn\u2019t have enough functionality or ability to understand native speech.\n\tBottom line: I often forgot that the Siri app and voice-activated control system were even on my iPhone. My guess is that many Android owners share similar experiences.\n\tEnter Siri. I\u2019ve only had the iPhone 4S for a week or so but have quickly become a Siri power user. Mind you, I was very skeptical at first, given my lackluster experience with the Siri app and voice-activated control system. Moreover, the first day Siri was bogged down with all the newbie iPhone 4S users hitting the service.\n\tSiri eventually won me over because of the enormous number of tasks it can handle. By far, the best tasks are the reminder function and the ability to input calendar items.\n\tI probably ask Siri to remind me about something or put an appointment in my calendar at least twice a day. I\u2019ve used the GPS-enabled feature of the reminder function only once \u2013 as in, \u201cRemind me to pick up sushi after I leave work\u201d \u2013 but just knowing it\u2019s there is a bit of a thrill. I soon realized that I had been subconsciously avoiding typing appointments in my calendar because it took so long.\n\tNow I find myself asking Siri to do more things, including basic tasks. For instance, I almost always use Siri to play songs, albums and playlists, and to make phone calls to people in my contact list. Once, I quickly needed a two-minute timer when grilling steaks, and Siri started the timer in mere seconds.\n\tHere\u2019s a hidden use case: When having trouble spelling a word, you just ask Siri. Siri will repeat your question in text form before having to \u201cthink about that\u201d and searching the Web. But the text already gives the answer, of course. It\u2019s a great spellchecker.\n\tNot everything, though, should go through Siri. For instance, I don\u2019t dictate text messages to Siri. My mind just doesn\u2019t work that way. I tried Siri a few times and ended up rambling and stuttering my way through. Punctuation was off, too.\n\tOnce Siri gets you hooked for, in my case, reminders and calendar items, you\u2019ll begin to rely on it for other tasks and new ones you hadn\u2019t even considered. Apple knows how to set the hook.\n\tSiri had to be lightening quick, thus the need to run on A5 and have fast network speeds \u2013 all in the iPhone 4S. Siri also had to be able to make sense of the mutterings and ramblings of native speech. Apple avoided having too many failures that would put off users, either by Siri taking too long or being unable to recognize the question or task.\n\tThe other part of Siri\u2019s success has to do with its access to a range of apps and functions (reminder, calendar, clock, contacts, Safari, notes, phone, messages, etc.). Like a networking effect, more functions increase Siri\u2019s value and use. This is why Siri couldn\u2019t be a standalone app but built into iOS.\n\tTo all the Android fans claiming Android phones had Siri functionality first, the truth is that it doesn\u2019t matter. Android was unable to move voice-activated control into the mainstream. On the other hand, the magic of Siri lies in iPhone owners using voice-activated control regularly, which will breed familiarity and change the way people interact with computers.