The new iPhone 4S has gone on sale in India but, thanks to the steep price, there are no reports of Apple fans queuing outside the retail stores.

Siri and the Indian Accent

One of the most talked about feature of iPhone 4S is the voice-assistant Siri but some people who have used it say Siri doesn’t work with Indian accents [please see updates below]. It seems that Apple too has acknowledged that limitation, indirectly.

The iPhone 4S page on the Apple India website is now live and the page is exactly like the US version but for one difference – Apple doesn’t mention Siri anywhere on their Indian site. The screenshots and videos of Siri are all over Apple’s US site but the voice-assistant doesn’t even find a place in the technical specs of iPhone 4S in India.

Apple India page for iPhone 4S

iPhone 4S - Apple India Website

As you may have spotted, there’s no Siri in the above screenshot. And, considering the kind of response that iPhone 4S is getting in India, it seems very unlikely that Siri would support Indian accents anytime soon. Siri is obviously available in the iPhone 4S that Apple is selling in India but they won’t officially support it.  Thanks Theyagarajan S.

Update: This story did invite some criticism on the web. Tushar Kanwar calls it a “strangely unresearched tabloid-ish article” while Atul says”you make it sound like India is being singled out, which is clearly NOT the case.” I have included all the comments here.

[1] Gautam Mahtani of Apple PR points that some other Apple country-specific sites like Singapore and Hong Kong do not advertise Siri as well. He says that “directly or indirectly apple has not acknowledged any limitation of Siri. It’s inappropriate to say this” and also adds that “Siri works pretty well with Indian accent.”

[2] Atul Chitnis sent this note which explains why Apple may be not advertising Siri in India – ‘Siri is disabled by default in all markets (including Singapore and Hong Kong) where the feature cannot be used completely. This includes the advertised ability (in the USA, Germany and UK) to locate businesses, restaurants, etc. which depend on third-party services not available in these markets. The so-called “Indian accent” is not the problem at all – at the most it would be one of phrasing, not accent, but it works just fine with Indian accents.’

[3] Javed Anwer of TOI says “even with my thick accent it [Siri] worked decently. Not perfect but ok. A bigger issue is Apple simply doesn’t have the required India data to support many Siri services. Like biz listings.”

[4] Rajat Agrawal and Swaroop also wrote that Siri works well with the Indian accent. Rajat says that “only Indian names are a problem” while Swaroop says that he didn’t have to fake any accept and except for places, “[Siri] responds to making calls / emails very well.”

Thanks for all the comments. I do plan to do a follow-up on this topic. [Update] I recently tested Siri on iPhone 4S and got mixed results. You can check the video below while a detailed review is available at WSJ India.