Back in the not too distant past, Apple bought the Siri app and its developers, and months later launched the first major talking assistant on iPhone 4s. Siri is the most well known, perhaps the most popular of the genre.
So, why is Siri being castigated by technology writers and Apple critics? Why hasn’t Siri advanced in many years as fast as Amazon’s Echo and Alexa combo? There are times when Apple’s executives think the company has a larger lead over competitors than it does. Siri languished. The world moved on. What do you want from Siri? Here’s my list.
Talk To Me, Baby?
With few exceptions, Siri is better at parlor tricks than useful functionality. It’s Siri’s voice which powers Maps, and that gets used often. But as a technology that interacts with Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and Mac customers, Siri’s capabilities and responses to queries are anemic at best.
Dictation seems to have improved in recent years. Siri’s voice is more human-like than a year or so ago. Even the number of actions and commands that Siri understands has grown. But Siri’s promise as an interface for the future remains unmet. Siri– as well as brethren including Alexa, Google’s poorly named Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby– isn’t very smart or human-like, despite the promise and the humanized voice.
Here’s what is on my list for Siri 2019.
Siri Everywhere – Siri on the Mac is not Siri on iPhone and Siri on AirPods doesn’t even work. HomePod Siri must be a long lost Siri relative who knows little about the rest of the world. Apple TV 4k Siri can be useful because you’re holding Siri’s microphone in your hand, but Siri on Apple TV does not talk back. What’s with that?
Simply put, there is no reason why Siri cannot just be Siri on every Apple device. It helps if Siri knows which device is being communicated to, and that happens occasionally now, but it needs to be a no-brainer. Put Siri everywhere, Apple.
Buy Stuff, Siri – Amazon’s Alexa lets you buy stuff. From Amazon, of course. Apple is not Amazon, but Apple sells all kinds of products to customers logged into each device. Why can’t I use Siri to buy an app, or purchase a song, or rent a movie or TV show?
Siri needs to learn how to shop. What would help, of course, is if Siri knew who was doing the shopping. Siri doesn’t even know my voice. I’m not sure why I have to train Siri on my iPhone because she-it-he responds even when Jesse asks a question with “Hey Siri…” from anywhere nearby. A context related Siri– a Siri who knows one voice from another– would be a big plus. Voice recognition has been around for many years but Siri remains human agnostic.
Translation – We travel. We carry iPhones when we travel. We have two or three translation apps on our iPhones. Siri doesn’t translate. Google’s Pixel Buds– the search engine giant’s anemic answer to Apple’s very popular AirBuds, translates on the fly. We know Amazon is going to do the same with Alexa. Siri has been around for years and still cannot do anything beyond very basic translations.
Why can’t Siri talk to me in different languages? Siri can speak in more languages than Alexa, so why can’t Siri translate what I say to a specific language? Siri needs to translate.
Siri And 3rd Party Apps – Yes, it’s nice that Siri can do this or that, open a few apps, scour the internet for useless information, but Amazon has knocked the ball out of the park with a third party ecosystem that is growing fast. Siri on iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps? Dream on, Apple.
Yes, there is a Siri framework now, but where are the apps that use it?
Siri And Context – This notion is somewhat inferred in the first item, Siri Everywhere, above, but needs its own line item. Siri doesn’t remember much about what you just asked.
Me: “Hey Siri, when do the Braves play.”
Siri: “The Braves play tomorrow afternoon.”
Me: “Who’s pitching?”
Siri: “I’m afraid I can’t answer that.”
See? Context is important. Siri doesn’t have much of it and needs much more.
You get the idea, right? Siri needs to improve quickly because the world of talking intelligent assistants is moving fast.