What Was the First iPhone to Have Siri? The History of Siri

When people think about Siri they also think about Apple. People often forget how young Siri is thanks to her close ties with Apple. Along with that it’s easy to forget just how revolutionary she was for people of the time.

To better understand that relationship, we’ll look into Siri’s full history. We examine where she came from. And from there we’ll examine the first iPhone to have Siri. Finally, we’ll examine how she grew into the greater iOS infrastructure.

iPhone 4S, first iPhone to have Siri

The Early Days before Apple

When asking about the first iPhone to have Siri people tend to make some assumptions. They begin by assuming Siri was actually created by Apple. It’s true that Siri in her complete state only came about after Apple’s involvement. Siri’s genesis brings in a whole other company. Much of Siri’s initial code was actually written by SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center.

However, it’s important to note that iPhones were themselves what prompted Siri’s development. The iPhone marked a point where people actually had easy access to AI friendly hardware. It offered two particularly important features. iPhones tended to come with fairly precise multimedia capabilities. And they feature high speed data connections.

A Closer Look at what Makes Siri so Smart

Understanding why those two features are so important requires a brief divergence. It’s important to first understand how Siri thinks before considering hardware platforms. People often think of Siri as a program sitting on their phone. And it’s true that some parts of Siri do run through a phone’s processor.

However, Siri runs through a hybrid client/server model. This was a common technique in the earliest years of computing. Universities invested in powerful central servers. Students would then use under powered terminals to log into those supercomputers.

To an outside observer it would appear as if the terminals were fast supercomputers. But they actually just acted as a relay between human and more powerful computer. Siri works in a similar way.

The locally run portion of Siri mainly acts to send raw sound data between two points. It takes in sound data from local sources. Powerful remote servers then translate that data into more easily manipulated forms. From there a remote system is able to break it down into set commands and responses. It then sends a response back to the locally run Siri program.

Siri iOS assistant

The iPhone Release which Tested the Waters

This all highlights why it’s difficult to pin down precises dates for Siri’s release. The first iPhone to have Siri requires one to define exactly what Siri is. And client/server models make that inherently subjective.

The technical answer to the first iPhone to have Siri would involve most available models in February of 2010. This was the point when SRI released Siri as an app on Apple’s App Store. This meant that iPhone 3G, 3GS and later 4 were able to use Siri through the app.

Much of the server side and voice recognition code carried over between app and integrated releases. But the fact that it’s an app calls into question whether one can consider it Siri as we know it today. Especially since that same client/server model made it easy to disable once Apple decided on full integration.

The iPhone 4S

People at the time thought that the S in the iPhone 4S stood for speed. But it was actually an example of just how much faith Apple put into Siri. The S is an official branding to show full Siri integration. Apple also silently removed the Siri app and shut down existing servers midway into their 4S announcement.

It was clear that Apple wanted people to associate Siri with the iPhone 4S and nothing else. There was no real migration path for existing Siri users other than buying an iPhone 4S. As such, the iPhone 4S usually receives credit as the first iPhone to have Siri as we know her today.

Summing Up

Siri isn’t an easy topic to pin down. She’s not even easy for people to strictly define. But that also highlights just how groundbreaking Siri was. The release changed things so fast that language and culture haven’t quite caught up to it yet.

The client/server model shows how she’s been so easy for Apple to port. It’s equally clear that her platform agnostic state should keep her ubiquitous within Apple products for some time to come.