Apple certainly made my day at WWDC 2018 when it announced a whole suite of new features and tools coming to Siri in iOS 12.
Between Siri Shortcuts and Siri Suggestions, Apple's intelligent assistant is about to help you get a whole lot more productive. It starts with Siri Shortcuts, a way for any app to integrate with Siri through predefined key phrases. When paired with the Siri Shortcuts app, you'll be able to set up custom workflows with Siri and trigger them using key phrases. Lastly, Siri Suggestions is a machine learning feature that monitors your activity and provides suggestions for actions and apps to use in the appropriate situations. For example, it will suggest that you enable Do Not Disturb when you sit down to watch a movie at the theater.
Nice! So Siri can control all my apps now?
Yes and no. Siri can integrate with apps that add support for Siri Shortcuts. If an app's developer adds support, then you'll be able to use the app with Siri. As for Siri Suggestions, yes, technically all apps will work with Siri. It's important to understand that Siri isn't just the voice assistant you talk to on your phone — many of Apple's machine learning features are part of what it considers Siri. When you swipe down to access Spotlight on your iPhone, for example, you may get Siri Suggestions for apps. Siri knows what apps you use frequently and in particular contexts. It was already able to recommend your favorite music listening app when you connected to your car's stereo. In iOS 12, Siri gets a lot smarter and understands more contexts.
Can you tell me more about Siri Shortcuts?
Sure! Siri Shortcuts is actually a couple of features: a new integration with third-party apps and an entirely new app in iOS 12. When a developer integrates with Siri, their app can prompt you to create a shortcut to specific functions within the app. The example Apple gave on stage was for the travel app Kayak. By tapping on the Add to Siri prompt and creating a phrase (e.g. "Tell me about my trip."), Siri was able to show all the information about an upcoming trip in the Kayak app — all from the Siri UI. It was also able to share some of these details out loud.
As for the Shortcuts app, Workflow users will likely be familiar with the look and feel of this app. You can use Shortcuts to set up a series of functions that are triggered by a key phrase. You can, for example, set up a Shortcut triggered by the phrase, "Hey Siri, I'm heading home," that grabs your current location, texts your ETA to a particular contact, sets your HomeKit-enabled thermostat to 70º, turns on your HomeKit-enabled fan, shows you a particular result from Siri (in this case, it will say "You will get there in [insert travel time here]. I sent a message to [insert contact here]. Your thermostat is set to 70º and I turned your fan on), and plays audio from an app of your choosing.
This is an absolutely incredible, powerful new tool that will make Siri a useful tool for achieving several interactions across third-party apps on iOS.
Awesome, can you tell me more about Siri Suggestions?
Yep! Siri Suggestions is the next iteration of a subtle feature you've probably already seen in iOS. If you've ever noticed Siri suggesting apps to launch or contacts to add to your Contacts app, that's the Siri that pays attention to how you use your device and tries to make things easier and quicker for you. In iOS 12, Siri will get even smarter. Along with suggestions for added contacts, Siri will suggest that you text particular contacts and let them know you're running late, it'll tell you to call your grandma on her birthday, and a whole lot more. Instead of just working as a simple reminder, however, it gives you one-tap access to these activities — tap a text prompt and the iMessage sheet populates with your message.
Anything else I should know?
If you're having trouble thinking of any possible Siri Shortcuts that you'd want to use, fret not — the Shortcuts app will feature a gallery filled with different routines and shortcuts for you to try out. It's sort of like the App Store, just for Siri in this case.
While I had high hopes that we'd see these new Siri tools across all platforms, it appears — at least for now — that we won't have these tools on macOS.
What does that mean for my privacy?
Apple puts privacy and security first, that means that apps integrated with Siri get the questions you ask and commands you issue, but they don't get your personal data or any other data along with it. Apple does all the parsing and passes the intents on to the apps.
That gives you a lot of functionality without having to give up your privacy.
Have any questions about Siri Shortcuts and Siri Suggestions? Be sure to leave a comment or reach out on Twitter and we'll do our best to get it answered!
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