Iris: What It Represents, and Thoughts on App Clones

Earlier this month, Apple unveiled Siri for the iPhone 4S. While the technology behind it isn’t particularly revolutionary, from what I understand it works well and is fun to use.

Not soon after it was announced, a copycat attempt of Siri for Android was created: Iris (“Siri” backwards). Though it is nice to see developers attempt to bring some of iOS’s finer points to Android, there is definitely some way to go yet.

Read on for my opinions on both Iris, and application cloning between smartphone platforms.

Iris Itself

To start with I must say that Iris is nothing new to anyone who uses voice recognition software on their phone. Whether it’s Vlingo or Google’s own onboard functions, you have seen this all before. Standard commands such as ‘send text to John’ makes Iris ask you to speak the message, then confirms if you want to send. It does this with several mistakes, and normally needs several attempts to get it to choose the right person. It also makes for a good dodgy-dictionary tool. I said Bakewell Tart, and got back Victorian Art.

So it’s not very impressive, and I am certain Iris was cobbled together as a ‘look we can do it too’ response to Apple’s Siri announcement. A serious developer would not have released it in its current state, which is why I think it is just a way of saying ‘look what we can do in just 48 hours’ to counter the claims that Siri is magical.


It’s interesting: I often complain that Apple steal Android’s features. I suppose though I love it, Android is also guilty on a very small level of pinching some aspects of iOS. Maybe ‘replicating’ is a more appropriate word to use. After all, there is only so much imagination and creativity that can be applied to what are at the end of the day, just phones. Even if ideas are not directly copied, they are probably thought up at roughly the same time.

Perhaps it is good that this developer had a go at replicating Siri. Alhough it isn’t fantastic, it does pave a little part of the path in motivating other Android developers to have a crack at it. They probably are! After all (putting smartphone wars aside) what is really wrong with people trying to bring the successes of one platform to another? It’s a bit like a ‘one for one’ system exists; iOS has borrowed a few of Android’s features, so does that entitle Android users to enjoy clones of Siri and other iOS features?

My first post for AppStorm was a review of MetroUI, an ongoing project attempting to replicate the Windows Phone 7 Metro interface as an Android home screen. From the point of view of an Android user, its nice to be able to mess around with the Metro interface and enjoy it for ourselves. To WP7 users we are copycats, and probably perceived in the same way Android users look at a lot of iOS users. Makes you think a bit about the fanboy wars that are always being waged. At the end of the day we always want a part of what the other person has, or indeed, what we can’t have.

Final Thoughts

Though it is certainly a good gesture from the Android developer, Iris is more fun than functional. If the developer ever wants their application to be used regularly then they must put in a lot more effort to improve Iris. A speech-recognition and interface tweak would go a long way. If you want to have a play with Iris, here’s the link.

I’d like to pose a question to you all now: Should smartphone features be locked down to one system and copying them frowned upon, or should the re-creation of some features to other smartphones be encouraged? Should it really matter so long as people keep track of who originally invented what?

Go ahead and start some discussion in the Comments thread below!