Apple's Siri investment and the watch and HomeKit payoffs

I use Siri all the time. It's gotten so that I'm often too lazy to tap or type. I use it for reminders, for alarms, for searches, for reservations, and for a lot more. If I have an idea and I'm driving and don't want to forget it, I'll just say "Hey, Siri", dictate a note, and touch it up later as needed. And in my experience, John Gruber is spot on. Daring Fireball:

I've noticed over the past year that Siri is getting faster — both at parsing spoken input and returning results. I use iOS's voice-to-text dictation feature on a near-daily basis, and it's especially noticeable there. I've been using a Moto X running Android 5.0 the past few weeks, so today I did a side-by-side comparison between Siri and Android's Google Now, asking both the simple question, "What temperature is it outside?" Both phones were on the same Wi-Fi network. Siri was consistently as fast or faster. I made a video that shows them in pretty much a dead heat.

iOS 8's streaming speech-to-text is especially notable. You see it rendering while you're speaking and what's more — you see it changing the words it's already rendered as it gets additional context. Apple's been investing a lot in voice, and it's paying off. Sure, it would be great if they localized processes that didn't require internet access, like setting an alarm, but compared to 2011, it's already night and day. It's gone from punchline to productive feature.

Lastly, a rather obvious but important observation: Improvements to Siri across the board — reducing latency, improving accuracy, increasing utility — are essential to the success of Apple Watch. And — given the previous note on first impressions — it's pretty important that Siri integration on Apple Watch work well right from the start.

It's always been interesting to me that Siri — natural language interface — has existed beside multitouch on iOS. It's been there as an option for when touch wasn't ideal due to circumstance, or optimal due to task. The Apple Watch will likely magnify that — there'll be more occasions when touch isn't ideal or optimal. For some of that, you'll be able to Handoff to iPhone. For a lot, you'll be able to just talk. HomeKit will be similar as well, with Siri moving from secondary to equal or even primary interface. HomeKit on the watch even more so.

Like Continuity and Extensibility and Touch ID, the investment in Siri will likely pay off beyond it's initial implementation.

More: Daring Fireball, and don't miss the Google+ thread.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

16 Comments
  • I still have my fingers crossed that they will return the "Raise to Siri/Dictate" feature. Personally, I don't know anyone who uses the "Raise to send a stupid voice message in only one app" function. Why did they kill one of the most useful features (for me, not to mention reduces wear of the home button) which was accessible from anywhere except when the screen was off, you didn't even need to unlock, just wake up & lift. But I know they won't bring it back. Just like they'll never fix Siri's broken messaging conversation - [hold home button] (boopboop) "Tell my wife I'm on my way home." (beepbeep) - at this point Siri should talk back to me telling me, "Your message to [your wife] says, 'I'm on my way home.' Ready to send it?" - Siri always skips this part and just goes (boopboop) waiting for me to tel it to "send" or "cancel". This is especially irritating when I'm driving, trying to be safe by leaving the phone on the passenger seat; it defeats a good portion the purpose of Siri for me. Sent from the iMore App
  • ... But I guess adding the ability for a tiny minority of people to tell their phone to turn off a light is a more valuable use of resources. Sent from the iMore App
  • iOS 8 broke associated relations for me (eg "hey Siri, text my wife"). Siri responds with "I don't know who your wife is, go to settings... Blah blah blah" I haven't been able to associate "my wife" with [her name]. Sent from the iMore App
  • I had the same issue after some update, I took it to Apple store and they did a restore (after backing up my phone) and it worked. For the mean time try saying "hey Siri, text my spouse" or, lol, try saying "text my husband (instead of wife)" its funny but it actually texted my wife.... But yes, full restore fixed it...
  • Did you have your wife's relationship saved in your contact, and set as your wife or spouse. Also, are you sure you had the correct contact (yours, with the wife relationship) set to "My info"? I don't doubt you, but there are many star which must align. Sent from the iMore App
  • I never use Siri.
  • Maybe Siri expects an American accent, as it struggles to understand my unaccented English. It's also down a lot. Both of which mean I use typing, which is much easier now with Swype and SwiftKey. That said, if apple ever get round to making a modern version of the Apple TV, universal search with voice is a no brainer.
  • Have you tried changing Siri's language to "English (United Kingdom) / (Australia) / (Canada)" ? Sent from the iMore App
  • Siri has been absolute go to feature on my phone since it debuted. And the past year it was incredible. One major request I have for Apple is offline functions for: setting events/reminders/alarms, text/call, open apps/change settings, calculating basic math, etc. Another "wouldnt hurt" option would be to have Siri access my banking app and "siri, what's my checking account balance" (could be a security thing, but I dont mind the "you must unlock your phone first"). Today if there's bad internet connection, I feel handicapped and awkward when I have to type in a text or note, or manually set up a reminder, or open an app/change a setting. You have no idea how fast you can locate a person with Siri, vs opening an app and selecting a contact. I do love the smart-alec responses and sarcasm (even though I know it's preprogrammed) it puts siri on a different level. P.S. Do NOT egnore a huge feature: Dictation works extremely well on other languages too when you switch to a keyboard for another language in text, notes, etc. and hit the microphone button - my mom who's not techie nor good in english uses that to text freakin' paragraphs... Apple should invest more and more into Siri - I want to be able to control my phone entirely by Siri, and my car, and my house, and my ipad, and my pc, and my wife.... wait.. no, that would be unethical... but my boss, yes my boss...
  • It like your list of offline features. Except that there's no point in having Siri text or call someone in offline mode because you need Internet to make calls and send texts. Sent from the iMore App
  • I use Siri all the time. I still think it has a long ways to go, but the improvements have been impressive. The more Apple can integrate it, the better.
  • Personally I feel silly using Siri, and its always a hit and miss process. For instance sometimes I have new messages and when I ask Siri to read them no me, it tells me I have no new messages, other times works fine. What we do now is that 85% of iPhone users have never used Siri. Most iPhone users I know don't even know it exists, so I posit that its not a killer feature, not on the phone nor on the watch.
  • Still no on-board processing for even simple local commands...4 years later. My iPhone 3G was better at voice dialing than my 6 Plus Sent from the iMore App
  • If you disable Siri, you will have Voice Control instead. Sent from the iMore App
  • Wow...I never realized this; thank you very much! I *do* actually use Siri, primarily for reminders and alarms, but this tip is going to be very handy for me, especially while driving, until Apple finally gets around to at least some on-board processing. Sent from the iMore App
  • i use siri alot, funny when your charging your phone and cnn's talking about syria and siri wakes up lol. did notice sometimes in the car it doesnt work if im using a bluetooth head set. even if its charging no hey siri. i have an older car so i have the aux plug to my car radio that wont work either. so that stinks.
    sometimes it wont understand me at all and ill try the hey google and it gets it every time. so siri is awesome most of the time and i think im the only one i know that uses it.