AI is the must-have upgrade that Siri needs, and it needs it now

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There’s no other way to say it - right now, Siri sucks. Ask Chat GPT something like “explain quantum computing in simple terms”, and you get an actual answer. Ask Siri and you get the standard, “I found this on the web”, response. All Siri does is show you links to websites related to what you wanted to know, rather than answer the question itself. It’s always done this, but it’s only since the rise of AI chatbots, like Chat GPT, that this is starting to feel a bit old fashioned. 

OK, Siri does do some useful stuff very well, like starting timers, or scheduling reminders, and when it launched in 2011 this was all pretty groundbreaking stuff. The problem is that more than 10 years have passed now since that launch and things have moved on — while for the most part Siri has stood still. The rise of AI chatbots like Chat GPT have shown what’s really possible with modern man/machine interactions. Suddenly Siri is looking a bit long in the tooth.

While we can already get ChatGPT as an app on the iPhone just imagine how powerful it would be if it was combined with the voice recognition and system-level integration capabilities of Siri. In fact, we’ve already thought about some workarounds to make it happen — follow our guide on how to replace Siri with ChatGPT AI on iPhone — but we’d love it if Apple could just get these two guys talking.

In fairness, rival voice assistant Alexa isn’t that much better, but it does feel like Amazon has the edge over Apple here, which is unusual in any market. Normally Apple is the clear leader, but not with digital assistants, it seems. 

Internal testing and a vision of the future

According to Mark Gurman’s Power On newsletter, Apple is already using an AI chatbot internally to help its teams do their work, and it’s going to start moving it into customer-facing products next year. If he’s right, it might not be long before we get an AI-boosted Siri. 

Just imagine a Siri that you could have a proper conversation with. You could ask it how well it thought the US team did in the recent World Cup and instead of saying “here’s what I found on the web” it would launch into a serious debate about the power of the current back four and the impact of injury on the squad. Ask it what you need to improve your credit rating and it would come back with a series of decent suggestions you could implement. Ask it to write an email to your boss for you about why you absolutely need to take next Friday off, and would do a pretty good job. In fact, it could probably email it to your boss for you and get you a raise while it’s at it!

Of course, as brilliant as it sounds, AI doesn’t come without risks. AI learns everything it knows by training itself on what it finds on the Internet, and so it can have a very loose relationship with the truth. In fact, there have been reports of people posting fake news, just to get AI chatbots to report it as fact. Websites containing fake AI-generated news are proliferating at an alarming rate. And it turns out that AI is capable of ‘hallucinating’ various products into existence when doing roundups of what the best processor or graphics card is.

Apple will find all this problematic, and will be looking to utilise a chatbot that doesn’t make these kinds of mistakes. But while the challenges of making AI into a trusted source are significant, it’s what Apple has always been good at. Apple does best when it takes other people’s ideas and makes them better. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but it perfected it with the iPod. Apple didn’t create the first visual mouse-driven interface for a computer, but it made the best one the world had ever seen. Apple didn’t invent the touchscreen device, but… you know the rest.

I’ve got a feeling that Siri is going to get the best implementation of AI we’ve ever seen. Eventually...

Graham Barlow
Group Editor in Chief, Tech

Graham is the Editor in Chief for all of Future’s tech magazines, including Mac|Life, MaximumPC, MacFormat, PC Pro, Linux Format and Computeractive. Graham has over 25 years of experience writing about technology and has covered many of the big Apple launches first hand including the iPhone, iPad and Apple Music. He first became fascinated with computing during the home computer boom of the 1980s, during which he wrote a text adventure game that was released commercially while still at school. After graduating university with a degree in Computer Science, Graham started as a writer on Future’s PC magazines eventually becoming editor of MacFormat in 2004 then Editor in Chief across the whole of Future’s tech magazine portfolio in 2013.These days Graham enjoys writing about the latest Apple tech for as well as Future’s tech magazine brands.