iPhone 4S: Siri’s international limitations

Siri's response to non-U.S. users looking up businesses. Credit: Aral Balkan.

Siri (s aapl) is a big draw for customers interested in the iPhone 4S. Apple’s early promo material about the feature make it look absolutely amazing, and by most accounts, it is. But if you’re not in the U.S., you might experience a little disappointment when you fire Siri up.

In non-U.S. countries, or if you’re not using U.S. English as your device language, Siri can’t look for businesses, use maps or access traffic info. So asking it to find the best route to your cousin’s house in Germany won’t produce results, nor will inquiring about restaurants in your immediate vicinity.

Siri should still offer some impressive benefits; you can still use it to dictate texts, schedule appointments and send emails, for instance. But a lot of the features missing in non-U.S. phones are the ones that really lit up the pre-release demos. Siri’s ability to know and interact with the world around you is a big part of its appeal.

Now Apple has said it will be gradually rolling out localizations of Siri for the rest of the world, and for other languages, and that the software is currently in a “beta” state. That means we can probably expect missing features to eventually make their way to international devices, too. Thinking about the massive undertaking involved in creating a locally aware, intelligent, virtual assistant on the iPhone 4S makes my head spin; no doubt it’ll take Apple some time to get there.

Siri may not be all that worldly yet, but you can still spend countless hours toying with it, and using it to get stuff done on your phone. And in due time, she’ll probably pick up some international flair, too.