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Thursday, November 03, 2011, 03:15 pm PT (06:15 pm ET)

iPhone 4S restart appears to resolve Siri availability for some

iPhone 4S users suffering from an inability to access Siri voice assistance can try to resolve the issue by performing a device restart, something that has helped some users to fix temporary issues.

A number of readers have reported issues with Siri "not being able to connect to the network" on their new iPhone 4S, suggesting a service outage related to Apple's servers. Record sales of the new phone, stoked by the Siri feature itself, have been blamed with overwhelming the company's ability to keep up with requests.

However, in testing iPhone 4S models on different service providers and configured to work over the same WiFi network, it appears that some devices can reliably contact the service to promptly get results while others get either no results or very sporadic responses, often failing with messages that blame a network connectivity problem.

A Sprint iPhone 4S that AppleInsider has been testing appeared to be unable to answer any requests until all apps running on the phone were manually terminated and the phone was powered off and restarted. After the reset, Siri began working consistently, at least for a few minutes.

However, the same solution didn't immediately address the problem of an identically configured iPhone 4S that happened to be set up on AT&T. After being reset, the device appeared to work occasionally (although taking much longer to obtain the same results), but frequently failed to contact the server entirely.

In continued testing, the functionality of the two devices traded places, with the AT&T model beginning to work while the Sprint model complained of network problems, at times even before a request was made. Restarting the phone seemed to get it working again. For some requests, answers were delivered with a delay, sometimes with the content of the request being correctly rendered before a delayed answer was provided.

If Siri problems are related to overburdened servers on Apple's end, restarting the phone may help to restore service by either resetting its connection session with the service, or perhaps by reallocating memory or resetting the status of the phone locally in a way that helps it to connect to the service. In any case, regular problems in using Siri on either phone seemed to benefit from restarting the device, performed by holding down the power button until the "slide to power off" control appears, sliding it off, waiting for it to shut down, then holding the power button again until it restarted.

Siri is still in beta, and record shipments of iPhone 4S and the novelty of the new service are likely driving high request volumes. However, Apple is not reporting any downtime status for Siri, as it does at least to some extent for its iCloud-branded network services, leaving users frustrated and unable to determine if Siri's inability to respond to requests is related to Apple's servers or to specific issues with their carrier or network.

Apple has also failed to comment on when the issue might be resolved. Yesterday, the company issued a limited press release to specific media sources informing them that the company had discovered battery issues in the new iOS 5 that it planned to address in a future update, and developers report that a beta release of that 5.0.1 update has been distributed for testing.