iOS 7 wants: Siri access via Spotlight
Apple greatly expanded Siri in iOS 6, adding a host of new features including sports, movies, and dining results, far better language support, and even an Eyes Free driving mode for when hands-free usage is paramount.
But what about Voice Free? Having a conversation with your iPhone or (soon) iPad is something straight out of science fiction. But voice isn't always the best or most appropriate way to query data, and sometimes it's not even possible.
Siri's servers aren't always quick or even available, and waiting a minute for Dictation's purple balls to time out and provide no text input can be beyond frustrating. For some power users already engaged in entering text, switching from typing to voice entry can also be sub-optimal.
Apple could address all of these problems by allowing text queries into Siri via the existing Spotlight interface.
Any question you could ask Siri could just as easily be typed. "Weather?" "Directions to Cupertino?" "Send text to bob I'll be late" "Meaning of life?"
If Spotlight could access Siri's contextually aware response engine, the same great results could be delivered back, using the same great widget system that already has buttons to touch-confirm or cancel, etc.
Spotlight on Mac does far more than Spotlight on iOS. If there's any fear this couldn't be done on mobile, Just Type on webOS has been doing basic actions since version 2.0 back in March of 2011.
Instead of a static search section that only includes Google, Google Maps, Wikipedia and Twitter, a new search section called "LAUNCH & SEARCH" has been created (see example above). This is now a customizable search list that will allow you to search within any website that participates in the Open Search protocol, any apps that register themselves as "Just Type" searchable, and even the App Catalog. So, instead of launching Foursquare, waiting for a list of venues to load up, typing in your search criteria for a venue and then waiting for that list to populate, you can just type in the venue name in Just Type, hit the Foursquare search link, and it will open up to an already-searched listing.
"Quick Actions" are another new feature of Just Type that allow you to send text directly to an app to perform any number of actions, such as creating a new email, SMS or tweet, updating your Facebook status, or even creating a new calendar event. Just type in your text, press the action you want to perform, and the app will open up with your text pre-populated in the necessary sections. As an example, to update your Facebook status, just type in your status to Just Type, tap the Facebook action, the Facebook app will be launched with your status right there, and all you need to do is press "Post"
You are also now able to search for data within specific applications, right from just type. Currently, only Email and the Web Browser are available as searchable apps, but this allows you to search for any email that has already been downloaded on your phone (sadly, while sub folders are included here, they are still not automatically synced in webOS 2.0), or search through your web browser's bookmarks or history, all without loading up those respective apps.
Apps like Launch Center are great for quickly initiating actions (rather than apps). Tapping through is different than typing into, however. The former is lightning quick for set actions. The latter is adaptible for the moment. Like voice, tapping and typing all have their place and value.
And haultiple points of entry to consistent content doesn't increase complexity -- it increases accessibility.
iOS 6 is already in beta, so this type of functionality would no doubt have to wait for iOS 6.1 or iOS 7, but for anyone who's used Alfred or Quicksilver, or Just Type or any other kind of keyboard launcher, it would be a fantastically productive front-end alternative.
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