Apple Demonstrates Voice Control for iPhone 3G S

iPhone 3G S Voice Control

In one of the more impressive demonstrations during the iPhone 3G S introduction, Apple showed off a new feature -- Voice Control.

To activate it, you hold down the "home" button (previously reserved for "force quit"). When you hear the sound, you're good to speak!

It can be used to make a call by saying either the name or number. Voice Control will repeat what you say for confirmation.

It can also be used to tell the iPod app to play a song, play a playlist, shuffle, activate Genius, or even tell you what song is currently playing.

Most impressive? It will be available in a ton of languages! (See full list after the break!)

  • Chinese (Cantonese)
  • Chinese (Mainland)
  • Chinese (Taiwan)
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • Dutch (Belgian)
  • Dutch (Netherlands)
  • English (Australian)
  • English (UK)
  • English (U.S.)
  • Finnish
  • French (Canada)
  • French (France)
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hungarian
  • Indonesian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese (Brazil)
  • Portuguese (Portugal)
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Slovak
  • Spanish (Mexico)
  • Spanish (Spain)
  • Swedish
  • Thai
  • Turkish

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple Demonstrates Voice Control for iPhone 3G S

52 Comments

Can I hold down the button on my bluetooth headset? Right now it redials the last number, but will that change to allow activation of the voice control? That alone may be my reason to upgrade.

Sounds great if you want to take forever to call someone. I'd rather start typing and tap to call.
Plus, why would you have to ask what is now playing. It's..umm...playing..and you put it on there so you should know if you hear it.
Gimmick at best..

I have a very huge music collection, including some stuff that I've never heard, and a lot of stuff that, while I can tell who plays it, I don't know the name of the song. So I can see how the song identification feature would be useful for someone like me and not just a gimmick.

Overall, this is "neat"... but I'm going to be honest, a video camera, improved camera, voice features, a compass, and improved processor speeds "up to" 2x faster isn't enough to get me to upgrade from my 3g I bought in January to the 3G[s].
If I was just buying an iPhone, for the first time and found out this stuff had been added, I would have been like "oh, cool", but it's not worth me shelling out another several hundred dollars for these features.

@Tyson
I concur. This will be great for first time iPhone buyers. Get everything in one go.
For the iPhone 3G users...they obviously will have all this (sans compass and voice control) through jailbreaking and 3.0 update.
But you know it will sell like hotcakes.

This would be more impressive if they could take notes with the voice recognition technology so I could send email and sms and take notes verbally and have the phone type them out.
When you look at that google APP can do with Voice search its really amazing, and really fast. I suspect they have a tad more processing power to draw upon tho...

1) What happened to force quit? Does it get another method, or is it just "hold it for voice control, hold it REALLY LONG" to force quit the foreground app?
2) On my 3G with vlingo I can say "call steve" to dial. I cannot control music with it, but I can also say "find mcdonalds" to look for food on google maps, or "search iphone" to google. vlingo's drawback is that as an app, not a system service, it has to be in the foreground, which kind of defeats the convenience purpose. Does Apple's voice control offer this, or just call and music controls?
3) The voice calling feature, at least, NEEDS to work with BT headsets and car kits. Otherwise, it will fail to serve the people who need it most.

Why on earth is voice control not going to work on the iPhone 3G??? How is that possibly a hardware feature? I just bought my iPhone 3G in August and it's obsolete already? Apple sucks sometimes. And video recording. How is that a hardware feature? I record video right now with my jailbroken iPhone 3G, but Cycorder is buggy and I was looking forward to a more polished Apple version.

exBBCurve8310Owner, the video recording quality you get with the iphone 3g jailbroken is about 15fps. Apple was right not to allow it on the current 3g as the quality would not be good enough. The 2mpx camera on that device was designed only for still photo.
The new one records video at VGA 30fps which is far more acceptable and the camera has been designed with both purposes in mind.

My guess is that the Voice Control and other non-3GS hardware specific features (Nike+ and Video to name a few) could be unlocked through jailbreak software. The code would exist in the 3.0 software, it just needs to be tricked into thinking it's running on a 3GS and not a 3G. Peanuts for the jailbreak crowd.

I would use it while in the car, definitely. Walking around? No. I was at the grocery store buying some mac and cheese and this guy pulled out his blackberry, held down a button, said "Call Marge" and waited while it confirmed.
He could have just hit the green button, typed 'marge', and been done with it.

Like the iPod shuffle with voice control, there could be something in the hardware that will also take signals from headsets?

At Nick, I know it's just 15 FPS, but the quality's surprisingly good in bright light. I was really looking forward to voice command though.

Lamest "upgrade" in Apple history.
$99 entry price is only exciting news but i'm pretty sure everyone here has an iPhone so who cares?
Thanks for the $200 compass Apple.
epic fail.

yea i agree. video should be included with all models in 3.0. also voice recognition should be included in all iphones and it should be able to open apps, makes emails and sms and so on. they need to elaborate on this.

@ Miley Cyrus
don't agree with you; iphone 3GS is a new product, with a few new software features but also with new hardware (faster processor, faster connection speed, stronger battery etc) and don't think they made it for existing custumers. First of all they just want to expand their market shares... so, lower prices and all the amazing features (old&new) to attract new customers.
For existing customers, like me, just think if you would buy a new Mac Book or a new Mac Pro every time they make an upgrade. I wouldn't... my Mac Pro will last 2/3 years and so will do my iPhone 3G

Having paid $499 for the original iPhone 2G, I'm glad that I will be able to upgrade to the 3.0 OS and keep the original $69/month AT&T plan. Both the 3G and the 3GS are not enough of an improvement for me to upgrade. The faster speeds are relative. I will wait, yet again, to see what the next version of iPhone hardware will have to offer.
Allthough, if AT&T were to lower the cost of the data plan and have some kind of trade-in program, I would reconsider. But when will that happen? Much less for a 2G owner.
I wonder how many other users out there are thinking about not upgrading just yet and keeping their original 2G like me. What do you guys think about that?

i just want to know if these will be offered for Pre-Paid iPhone customers in Australia, like the 3G is now. I hope so, coz i'm not going on a plan

I'm curious as to why voice control wasn't included for 3G models; apart from the hardware upgrades, the software is the same at the core. So what gives?
I have heard that Apple is planning on doing continuous updates on headset integration and other sorts of new features with the voice control app; the way its structured is too powerful to just leave for calling and music. They've probably got some wicked stuff in the works. But then again, it is Apple.....which probably means that only models 3GS and after will be able to access it. BLEH. Or it will be all hyped up and then epic fail. Double BLEH.

@Rick. Unfortunately, you cannot use a Bluetooth headset for voice control of the 3G S. That's according to Apple. See http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3597.
There is a standard protocol that other mobile phones use to let Bluetooth headsets dial by voice. It's puzzling that Apple did not choose to support it. I hope they change their minds.
While cycling, I could not safely push the home button or wear a wired headset. But I usually dial only one number during a ride. I call that number once before each ride and quickly hang up. During the ride, I use the Redial function on my Bluetooth headset to reach that number.
While driving, I use that same Redial trick to call the AT&T voice dial service. But always remembering to do that, and getting my entire Address Book into the service, isn't really feasible. That's the main reason I would like 3G S voice control.
TomTom plans to ship a car kit later this summer that includes a dashboard mount. Maybe it will retain the iPhone securely enough that it will be easy to push and hold the Home key without looking away from the road. If so, I may upgrade then.

Does anybody know if the voice control is Apple technology or they using some thirdparty software?

It is a horrible feature. My iphone gets about 5% of my commands correct. Normally it will play a random song, will tell me "no song match" when I have 100s of songs by the artist I requested or it will do something completely random like dial my ex (not sure why his number is still in my phone, but you can imagine me rushing to hit "end call").
Completely not worth it. A very poor design. And, yes, I am an English-speaker (native).

Voice Control sucks big time. Totally worthless. I speak perfect english, and it recognizes less than 5% of names I speak. Can't teach it either. And what good is it if it doesn't work with bluetooth headset. Totally worthless!

Got an iPhone 3GS and I love it. It's brilliant.
But the voice recognition is CRAP!
The worst thing is when you try to play a song
and it ends up CALLING some random person
from your Contacts. This alone makes the 'feature'
completely unusable.

I wish apple had one voice technologies product. The web site is onev.com. The voice recognition is sick.

Dude, I am not sure it if support bluetooth or not but with a motorola it only support re-dail, so the question is if you have a stero bluetooth headset would it work.
with the wired headset that comes with the phone it works great. 95% and it not how good you are speak english it's how good and clear and pronounce each sound. like andy and annie be sure to concentrate on the whatever. Also say call before name so it won't try to pay a song that's named andy.... when you like to play specific sound say play ... don't just speak a name. for other language I think you will have to switch you phone language as the default language. or spell our you contact fast and steady. like ABC, notice that I have a contact name zui long it will confirm by saying call z u i long? voice to call app? some is valid, like type out e-mail, note and other voice applicable program, but for webbrowsing you need your eye on it so voice it not ... but it would be great if whenever you are ask to type something you can choose do to voice input.

The best part of the 3GS is available on the 3G if you get the update. And its got to be copy & paste! Its brilliant. If I'm on the bus to school i can copy and paste some crap from wiki onto notes and then email it to myself and print it out at school! Sorted. The other features released at this time was stuff like "internet tethering". Would be great if it was free. Why shouldnt it be? Im paying for unlimited internet about £45 a month on my iphone yet if i want to transfer the connection to my laptop it will cost me £30 a
month ON TOP OF THAT (sorry i'm enjoying my
rant here). Does anyone have internet tethering?is it more competative then mobile broadband or whatever the men on the train call it with the thing in the USB thingmigigy?
Right, I think my little rant should end now. Wait. Not really little. Big rant.

Just upgraded from original iPhone to 3gs. Nice upgrade. Was really looking forward to voice command. Works great over blue tooth. Recognition not very good. Wish I could tweak recognition with settings. Other than that awesome.

"This would be more impressive if they could take notes with the voice recognition technology so I could send email and sms and take notes verbally and have the phone type them out.
When you look at that google APP can do with Voice search its really amazing, and really fast. I suspect they have a tad more processing power to draw upon tho…"
AND NOW YOU CAN...with the Dragon Dictator App that was just released (free)

My voice control works flawlessly. I have a strong southern south Carolina accent and I get at least 95 percent accuracy. I don't understand what you fools are talking about. And by the way, the 3gs smokes the sh*t out of the 3g. Ive had both. It's definitely ridiculously more than just a 200 compass. Y'all dont know what your talking about.

i had a 486/33 with 4megabytes and win 3.1 almost 20 years ago, that could do voice recognition with a software of its soundblaster pro. so apple sucks for saying that it is impossible to update the older iphone models to do that due to "hardware restrictions". this is a marketing scam on behalf of apple to sell the 3Gs. and I had all 3 models of iphones so far, all jailbroken. if you have a jailbroken 2G, you dont need anything more. 3G speeds suck everywhere in the world. gprs is far better. stick to a jailbroken original iphone that will do 90% of the stuff with no problems. I speak from experience.

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You can hold down the Home button to get to Voice Control even if the iPhone is locked. You can use Voice Control with a bluetooth headset without even touching the iPhone. You can use Voice Control to call your entire contact list and can dial numbers digit by digit. Voice Control apps can connect you with your contacts even if he has multiple numbers. Just give the right phone command and you are connected. Along with many other apple apple iphone 4 accessories this application is also enable in iphone 4.

!m sorry but I think that the voice activation is totally rubbish on my iPhone 3GS. It doesn't understand the name you want to call and dials random numbers that do not sound remotely like the one you have asked it to. I am from London so maybe that has something to do with it but still it should still work. Those people on here that don't have the voice activation I really wouldn't worry about it you are not missing much .

For phone calls, after the sound say, "call" then the contacts name. I had the same issue initially. It works great now.

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