Siri now flirting with older iPhones--for real

Developers are getting closer to finding a way to get Apple's iPhone 4S exclusive Siri voice assistant feature working on older iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

Siri answering a tough question.
CNET

Siri's exclusivity on the iPhone 4S may not be long for this world. At least unofficially.

Efforts to get the new software feature working on older Apple devices, including the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch, seem to have pushed past the biggest hurdle: slipping by Apple's security.

Over the weekend, Apple tracking blog 9to5mac posted a video of the software feature working smoothly on an iPhone 4, courtesy of Irish iPhone hacker Steve Troughton-Smith. That follows a demonstration from earlier this month where Troughton-Smith showed the software installed, but unable to run queries on an iPhone 4.

In an interview over the weekend, Troughton-Smith told 9to5mac that the working version of the hack runs on multiple devices, including Apple's fourth-generation iPod Touch. The feat was accomplished using "files from an iPhone 4S," that he said "aren't ours to distribute," alongside "a validation token from the iPhone 4S that has to be pulled live from a jailbroken iPhone 4S."

In other words, there are some things going on behind the scenes that Apple won't like, and could very well move to block if a working hack takes off, but the key takeaway is that there are seemingly no hardware hurdles standing in the way.

Here's a video of it working on an iPhone 4 with Troughton-Smith's workaround in place:



As for when you could possibly get your hands on the hack, Troughton-Smith said he's not going to package it up for people with jailbroken iPhones to grab and install, and is leaving it up for others to do that.

Siri made its debut during the unveiling of the iPhone 4S earlier this month. The feature lets iPhone 4S users talk to their phone to issue commands, which are then piped to Apple's servers over a 3G or Wi-Fi connection, then sent back as commands to the phone. The entire turnaround takes just a few seconds, but depends entirely on a handshake between the phone and Apple's servers, which has kept the feature from being jury-rigged onto older devices, as well as causing problems when Siri can't connect .

Older iPhones are not the only target for porting Siri. Last week developer Jackoplane posted screenshots of the voice assistant software installed on an iPad. Though like Troughton-Smith's earlier effort, it couldn't connect when it came time to talk to Apple's servers. With the newer workaround, that could change.

Apple has a long history of leaving out new software features on older hardware, though in Siri's case, the expectation was that it depended--in part--on the newer dual-core A5 processor. A similar hardware requirement came in the introduction of Voice Control to the speedier iPhone 3GS, which processed voice commands on the device itself instead of through Apple's servers.

Where Siri goes from here continues to be of intense interest given the expected future of Apple's product line. All eyes are on the company to introduce a television set in the next year or two, and Siri is assumed to play a part in that vision. While it's more likely to arrive on something like the iPad or iPod first, there's also the possibility of it jumping to Apple's Mac OS X as well.

 

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