LOS ANGELES — Apple's Siri upgrades will let you dictate LinkedIn messages, verbally search for shoe photos on Pinterest, and hail an Uber, hands-free.
When Apple unveils its new iPhone Wednesday, it's expected to push hard on software improvements available for its next mobile operating system, iOS 10, available for current iPhones and a predicted new iPhone model. The iPhone's voice-activated digital assistant Siri will be a key part of this upgrade, say tech analysts and developers.
Siri, primarily used for voice commands to dial phone numbers, set reminders and get traffic information, has been opened to third-party developers after five years of existence.
Apple, via a spokeswoman, said app developers are creating "completely new ways for users to interact" within apps.
“This is such a huge leap,” says Sagi Dudai, vice-president of mobile development for voice over internet protocol company Vonage. “Because now there will be so many more options.”
This year’s Siri “will help Apple narrow the gap with Google,” which has a big head start in voice recognition software, says Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research.
Apple has said that some 2 billion Siri requests are sent into the company weekly, “but while some people used it, others said it just wasn’t good enough and too frustrating,” says Dawson. “So this is a chance for Apple to try and win them (consumers) back.”
For instance, according to Apple, the new Siri will let users:
--Dictate messages on LinkedIn or What’s App.
--Search for photos on the Looklive, Pikazo, Pinterest and Vogue Runway apps.
--Hail rides on Lyft, Uber, China’s Didi and Europe’s mytaxi.
--Make business phone calls via the Vonage Essentials app or Skype.
--Pay directly to friends on Square Cash or Monzo.
These fall into the six categories available to app developers: ride-hailing, communications, voice calls, payments, photo search and workout apps. Missing are non-Apple music, news, weather and traffic apps, for instance. Apple has said it hopes to open up additional categories to developers in the future.
The average iPhone owner has 30 apps on their phone, notes Kiran Prasad, vice-president of engineering for business social network LinkedIn, and using voice to dictate a message takes less time than using the touchpad.
After unlocking the home screen, finding the app, opening it, waiting for it to load, navigating to the message tab, pressing to compose a new message, typing in the words and then clicking send, instead you could say “Send a LinkedIn message" to (your friend), dictate it, and order Siri to send it.
That speedier process “will have a huge impact” on Siri’s usage, says Prasad.
Noah Rosenberg, the co-founder and CEO of St. Louis-based photo app Pikazo, says his five-member team of developers could never have pulled off creating something like Siri, “but now Apple has opened it to us,” he says. “We would have needed an army of developers to do this….now we’re playing on the same playing field as all these massive giants.”
Rosenberg says the promise of Siri was that you’d have a “genie” in your phone who could suddenly answer questions and perform tasks.
But “you stopped using Siri because it didn’t live up to what it was supposed to be,” he says.
Cedric Rogers, CEO of the Looklive photo app, which shows pictures of celebrities and offers options for buying their outfits, says he’s primarily used Siri just for directions and making calls and texts while driving. With the new apps, and more people using them, the usage of Siri will greatly increase.
“As more people bark in different orders, Siri will get better, because the system will learn. The more feedback, the better it will get.”
For now, users will have to learn specific commands, and make sure to mention the app in question.
For instance, say “Send a LinkedIn message to Julie,” or else the message will be sent via Apple’s iMessages. “Make a call on Skype to John” or else you’ll dial it on your regular line.
Apple has said it was only starting with six categories for Siri apps to give developers time to come up to speed, and that it looks to add more categories eventually. It's expected to make IOS 10 available by mid-September.