Wither the Siri API?

Wither the Siri API?

In 2011 Apple introduced Siri, their virtual personal assistant, with the iPhone 4s, and two years and two versions of iOS later, including this year's iOS 7, and no public application programming interfaces (API) have been surfaced for developers. That means customers like you and me still can't use Siri with App Store apps (aside from Apple's own Apple Store app). There are likely both business and technical reasons for that...

Apple currently makes partnership deals for Siri, including Microsoft for Bing search, Fandango for movie tickets, Open Table for restaurant reservations, and more. If any app can tie in, those deals lose all value. Also, if multiple apps of the same kind are installed, competition and collision need to be carefully handled. Likewise, private APIs can be messy as hell. Public APIs need to be neat and clean. If Siri needs to be modularized and made it's own thing for it to work, that takes even more time and effort. And let's be frank, it would have to be rock solid, because Siri already has a hit-and-miss reputation with users, and Apple services APIs, like iCloud, with developers.

Every time we start talking about wish-lists - like I did with iOS 8 earlier this week - the topic comes up again, and when it does, I send people to this classic by Guy English from Kickingbear:

I’ll bet on an API later rather than sooner. If only because the success of Siri is determined upon it generating the best possible results and the ranking of those results must be determined by the plug-ins it uses. Once you allow plug-ins that potentially lie then you’ve ruined the entire Siri experience.

Read the whole thing, especially the dramatization, and for a deep dive, I recommend the discussion between Guy and Grant Paul (chpwn) on Debug.

Getting Siri on-device, perhaps with natural language and contextual coprocessors like Motorola is doing with Google Now all seem like things we should see with Siri before an API.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Wither the Siri API?


I agree. I would rather see Siri work better and not require a connection to work right. I am constantly tring to use it in a bad spot and can't even make a phone call to my own contacts because the connection is poor. I don't need it to work that way for everything, just contacts would be nice.

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Siri is frustrating at best and infuriating at worst. It seems strange that apple has introduced this without dedicating a team to perfect it. I remember Jobs being quoted as saying something like. "What's this supposed to do? Than why doesn't it do it?" I think Jobs would be disappointed at how Siri has become the joke of many comedians.

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Maybe Google Now has faster voice recognition but Siri is much more intelligent in its answers. Anyway, year after year Siri is getting better.

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You must be kidding, Google's is far superior in every way, Siri isn't even close. I wish I could switch Google's voice control as my native app rather than Siri. Google has just recently improved again, this time next year Google's voice control will be doing my job for me, wouldn't that be something.
Seriously, Siri isn't even close.

The same can be said to the OP. Can he explain how Siri is much more intelligent in it's answers? Is it because it speaks back? Or what?

I use an iPad and a Nexus. I always test the newest OS update (Google Search update for Now) to see how they fare. And each time, Google Now comes out ahead in most categories. Not ALL, but most.

All in all, both really are great products. But it does seem Google is doing the better job at improving it.

Siri started out FAR better than Now. But Google is improving it at a breakneck pace. I wouldn't say one is better than the other, but they meet specific needs.

Google Now is clearly the champion in voice recognition and proactiveness.

Siri has better presentation, a bit more sources to pull from that are presented as more than search results, and the minor deals they do have in place present better app integration (although Google's new app hook in should present a fairly nice challenge for that).

Sucking dick?? Is that why you have the Apple Logo for your name?? That is sucking dick. Being a Pats fan is great fun, we win. You talk like a little boy in your mommy's basement, maybe someone should wash your dirty little mouth out with soap and I would bet the farm I could do it. Put your little phone away and go to beddy by.

I don't agree in the slightest. I've used both since their launches and yes, I agree that Google Now is exciting and is a lot faster (and often more reliable), but it isn't superior. I can barely even use Google Now for text messages (which is 90% of what I use Siri for when driving. The other 10% is all sports related which Siri is also superior at least IMHO). It's a joke how and Google Now is at guessing what I'm saying whereas Siri gets most of what I say down. With that said I do get a lot more frustrated at Siri because I always get the dreaded, "I'm sorry, but I can't help you right now please try again later" BS. I do use Google Now only to glance at and never to transcribe and parse voice commands. I also don't use Siri a whole lot anymore either, but I do use it 1000% more than I use google now (again, unless you count me casually glancing at the cards in Google now).

I rarely have an issue with Siri. Though I understand the business side of things with the deals made for certain apps to use Siri. I do hope though, that Apple is not only working to make Siri better, but at the same time making it stable enough, and clean enough, for a public API release in the next couple years. Siri's popularity and usage would drastically increase with better performance, results, speech recognition, and most of all, open use across every app and aspect in the iOS ecosystem.

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"Siri's popularity and usage would drastically increase with better performance, results, speech recognition..."

Apple is still building out its datacenter capacity with new datacenters being built in Reno & Oregon so I'm confident Siri will get better as those come on line. As for me personally, I enjoy Siri, especially on iOS 7.

Siri is nice (better than nothing, for sure). "She" does have her quirks and is in need for refinement - Siri always pluralizes my possessives during dictation. My number one disappointment is network dependency. I would much prefer onboard support over APIs. All the API functionality in the world is all for naught if there are networking interruptions.

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Looking forward to the Siri API. But I can't imagine how Apple could present it to developers. As just a massive CoreSiri framework, or as a bunch of smaller CoreSiriCooking, CoreSiriMapping, CoreSiriSports, etc. APIs.

I had lunch in Mountain View yesterday, and I was wearing my Daring Fireball t-shirt. Got a few looks from some of the Google weenies there. Lulz.

Some people get frustrated by Siri, but I love it. I use it all day and it has made my life far more organized than ever before. There are a few things I would like to see. 1. Apple create their own search engine that integrates with Siri. 2. The ability to read definitions to me directly right after I ask. Right now I have to wait for the results and then say "read it to me", that could be automated.
3. The ability to directly play a radio station from an artist. Right now, Siri will only play genre stations directly unless you already have an artist station saved.

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"Apple create their own search engine that integrates with Siri."

As cool as that would be, that ship has sailed and it isn't coming back. Even Bing, which is 2nd in place can only muster, at best, an approximate 15% market share, and that's here in North America. I don't see how Apple can make a dent at this point in the search engine space.

It's not even a matter of competition. The search engines that are still relevant (besides Google) have had YEARS to get all their algorithms and everything else needed and still fall short.

Exactly. Which is why, at this point, I prefer Siri just hook into google / bing search and other apps like Yelp, Foursquare, etc.. Apple starting a search engine from scratch at this point would require way too much manpower and loss of focus.

Totally agree also.

S/N: I just now realized you were the commenter that I responded to above also, haha.

As well as I like Siri and use it for messaging, calls I agree get it right before expanding it

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I know Siri is not perfect but I use it a lot and find it very helpful. As a side comment to iOS 8 wishes, in some limited ways Siri is already a form of actionable notification, or rather a way to respond to texts without going out of app. However I would rather have onboard Siri and even an always listening feature (I would love that for when I listen to music while washing dishes among other things) and a faster more perfect typically Apple-controlled experience rather than access for every app though in time that would be nice.

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Sad as it may seem, I personally think that Apple needs to open up the API for Siri access and allow it to be far more flexible. They could control the access by giving the rules for use and exactly how it should be set up.

Right now they are still like a child that jealously protects that new toy the trouble is that every one seems to have improved on the technology especially Google which have made their version far more accessible especially on the Moto-X and on Kit-Kat.

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The puzzling thing about Siri is not the lack of APIs, but the lack of ambition. SRI introduced Siri in 2007 as the first step towards a proactive assistant, with plans to embed itself in multiple different aspects of our lives and make intelligent decisions. Then Apple bought Siri, and, 5 years later, Google Now is the product executing on some of those ideas while Apple seems content to add scraping another web service every year and call it the Siri upgrade.

I *think* Apple has the talent to make a better Siri, but that means they have deliberately chosen (or deprioritized) for 5 years not to work towards the potential Siri's original creators saw.

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I think that Apple has always been more focused on it's Hardware and their Operating Systems. That is where their talent pool is mostly focused on. Software such as iLife, iWork, Siri seem to get only minimal attention. Even Apple's attempt at email and cloud services have always left a lot to be desired. I personally like Siri and use it daily but Apple really needs to do a better job with their software applications and tools. Apple should be able to afford to hire a few more programmers with 150B in the bank.

Totally agree. Siri needs to not need a network connection. Try did it to speech recognition in Mavericks, bring it to iOS

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Even though Siri has it's kinks, it is the father of personal assistants on smartphones. Since upgrading to iPhone 5, I can't see how I'd do without it.

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Siri has a male voice too. Father if you use the male voice; mother if you use the female voice. ;-D

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True enough. I was looking at it from the perspective that Siri originated as a female voice [Susan Bennett].
But now... Is "Siri" a gender-transendental name? If not, what would you call the male Siri persona? "Sir" (xD)
(I just noticed Siri is Iris spelled backwards.)

Overall, I think Siri works well. It can be a little slow to do something as simple as setting a timer. On board processing would make that faster but you would still need a network for things like search and reservations.

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Before work is done on Anything else, Apple needs to recognize that they sell millions of devices to non-English speaking countries and integrate more languages in Siri.
For millions of people, Siri is absolutely useless right now.
Even though I speak English, Siri doesn't recognize most of the names in my address book, simply because they aren't English names.

Thank you for trying to help out. :)
However, as useful that tip is, it's not applicable here, as the tip handles teaching Siri to correctly pronounce names, whereas my problem is that she doesn't recognize names when I say them...
The biggest and most obvious issue is when I pronounce names that contain letters not in the English language, but it happens frequently when I use names that exists in English, but is pronounced different in my language (Danish).
I didn't know about the phonetically spell option in iOS 6, which would be really useful here, but I'm on iOS 7. Why on earth did Apple decide to remove that option I wonder?

To be honest, I tried a few names prior to writing this, and Siri is a bit better at coming up with suggestions of names now, and she have a higher "hit-rate" now in iOS 7, but it's still a far cry from optimal...

For a billion dollar company I would also think it ought to be possible for them to give me the opportunity to do queries about the weather, internet searches etc. in my own language, but
in many ways they're not focused on servicing people not speaking the major languages.

That's too bad after several years after the original release of Siri...

Siri integration would be amazing! I definitely think that it should first give decent results and then be implemented though!

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I hope they continue to expand Siri. I would also like to see some kind of local component to make phone tasks faster - reminders, timers, etc...

And the network connectivity could be better. I've been browsing the web with full LTE signal - go to use Siri and she spins and spins. It has to be quick and convenient or it's a waste. I love it when it works.

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I hope we get the following on the next SIRI update:
First, better vocal recognition and performance please. Honestly, I just talk to SIRI for a little entertainment. (It's sad, I know)
Second, some of SIRI's functions should be made available offline.
Third, more languages should made available.
Bonus: more witty comebacks!
For the API, maybe next time.

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Siri really needs to get as good as Google Now. Google Now is so quick to write out what you say and it doesn't need time to think. It starts typing what you say as you say it. It's quick and works. Also, you can use its transcription offline on android. Siri does do certain things better however, like timers, alarms, reminders, calendar events, etc.

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I use Siri to set my timer and Google now for search etc as it's so quick and recognises what I say. Siri really needs a kick up the ass!

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When Siri works, it works well. But it fails so spectacularly that I just don't know what to do with it. If Apple allowed third party apps to launch via the Home button held down, I'm sure it would be over for Siri.

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I hear Siri get a lot of beef. And I mean a lot.

I actually love Siri, and find it to be more accurate for my searches than that of Samsung Voice and other services.

I use it almost everyday. And cannot find anything as convenient or useful. Especially since iOS7's needed updates to Siri. It's only going to get better. And I'm very happy with the progress I've seen so far.

It's quick as a bell, and I wish more people would see it the way I do.

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