Ina Fried

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Apple Wants You to Meet Siri, Your New Personal Assistant

While many of the new features in the iPhone 4S had to do with hardware tweaks, the main feature of the phone could well be Siri.

Siri, which Apple bought last year, allows users to get a range of information just by asking their phone a question. On stage, Apple iOS head Scott Forstall demonstrated the app doing everything from finding directions to getting stock quotes and currency conversions. Apple has also partnered with Yelp to grab and sort local information.

The Siri feature is activated in the new iPhone by pressing and holding the “home” button on the iPhone, or pressing and holding a button on a Bluetooth headset.

“It’s just that easy,” Forstall said. “You can ask so many questions of Siri.”

Siri made its debut in a technology demo at our D7 conference in 2009.

So just who is Siri? Well, Forstall asked the phone that very question.

“I am a humble personal assistant,” the phone responded.

Siri will launch in beta with the Oct. 14 debut of the iPhone 4S, supporting English, French and German. More features and languages will be supported over time, Apple said. Of note, it works only on the iPhone 4S and no prior models, nor any other iOS device.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus