Apple’s personal assistant, Siri, while far from perfect, is a great help, but needs to be improved.
Siri can already write and send texts and e-mails, set reminders and timers, play music, launch applications, or answer any number of context-sensitive questions about sports and movies, as well as restaurants and businesses nearby. But as the software becomes a greater centerpiece across all Apple products -- it started on the iPhone, but has since spread to the iPad, and might hit the Mac later this year -- the problems with Siri are also much more glaring than ever before.
Many Siri rivals have debuted since Apple released the iPhone 4S in October 2011, including Nuance’s “Nina” and Google’s enhanced Voice Search app. Both of these particular competitors outperform Siri in a few key ways: Nina can authenticate users based on their voices, and Google Voice can dictate words as they’re said, processing the search as it’s being asked to prevent long wait times for answers.
With iOS 7 expected to arrive later this year -- an early build has already been discovered in the wild by developers -- Apple needs to polish up the Siri experience, but also add more features to make the service more reliable and user-friendly.
1. More Attentive Siri: Siri isn't a great listener all the time. Yes, Apple says she can hear "natural language," but she often struggles with acronyms, common foreign language words and names, excessive background noise and certain commands -- for example, if you ask Siri to call you an ambulance, Siri will reply, "OK. From now on, I will call you 'An Ambulance.' Is this correct?" In the time it takes you to cancel and start over, you might've already bled out and died. Therefore, better listening, and perhaps instant feedback like Google Voice Search, should rank toward the very top of the priorities list for Siri in iOS 7.
2. Web-Integrated Siri: When Siri doesn't know the answer to a question, she will quickly refer you to the Internet; unfortunately, Siri often doesn’t know the answer to the question. Siri is still doing your dirty work, dictating your words and searching them in Safari, but still, searching the Web forces users to leave Siri to find the information they’re looking for. In iOS 7, we’d love to see Siri include some search results directly in its beautiful grey-and-white interface, rather than opening up Safari or another browser to essentially do what you would’ve done if you weren’t so lazy.
3. Siri And Wikipedia: Siri is a good way to search your phone, but Wikipedia retains its crown as the king of all encyclopedic knowledge on the Internet. Google Voice Search is smart: When you ask a question, it quickly searches Wikipedia for a quick answer, and reads a portion of the answer to you out loud, as well as providing you with a link to the Wikipedia page. Siri could save users a lot of time and effort in iOS 7 if it simply started using Wikipedia as a resource in this way.
4. Siri In The AM: We all have our morning routines. For some, it's checking email, Facebook, or Twitter. Others read news stories; others still prefer to check the weather forecast each morning. How nice would it be if every morning, you could turn on your iPhone and see exactly what you wanted to see? Since Siri is so smart and “personal,” this “Morning Paper” feature would be a nice addition in iOS 7, by giving users what they want to see without having to do any extra work, which is particularly appreciated in the morning. With Siri in iOS 7, mornings could be much easier to bear.
5. Journalist Siri: News breaks all the time, and Siri can’t be expected to know what news you want to read. However, in iOS 7, it would be nice if you could ask Siri about a certain news story, and Siri could return five to 10 relevant articles about a specific topic, using Google News or Yahoo News as its prime source.
6. DJ Siri: Many people listen to music on the iPhone, and Siri was partially designed so users could control their music without ever having to remove the device from their pocket. However, there are currently a few inadequacies: Siri can play a certain genre, playlist or artist, but if you plan to use Siri while the music is already playing, Siri will turn the music off so you can offer another command, even if it’s just to change the song. The interruption is jarring; it would be nice in iOS 7 if Siri could distinguish the user from the music currently playing, which would allow users to simultaneously play music while experimenting with Siri. Also, when you currently want to switch a song, you must say “skip.” Skipping a song somehow requires Siri to connect to the Internet – which makes no sense – and furthermore, if you’re in a music playlist and you want to skip the song, there’s no way to be able to listen to more songs by the artist you’re listening to. Siri in iOS 7 ought to be able to fully accommodate the user’s listening experience, which is a key factor in the overall enjoyment of iOS.
7. Conversational Siri: Siri will help you immediately and remind you when needed, but unlike a human assistant, Siri doesn’t remember your previous conversations in the future. If you ask Siri to find a particular restaurant or business, but you then get sidetracked, Siri won’t remember what you two were previously talking about. In iOS 7, it would be nice if Siri could keep a log of the important things you tell her, which certainly is a helpful tool in keeping track of where you’ve been or what you’ve searched for.
8. Nurse Siri: In iOS 7, Siri could take a page from Watson and turn into a personal, digital nurse. If Apple could integrate WebMD's symptom checker into Siri, assuming she could hold a conversation and remember prior details, users could tell Siri all of their symptoms, and Siri could return lists of possible conditions. Furthermore, Siri could search deeper through WebMD to recommend certain drugs or home treatments, or even locate and contact a nearby pharmacy to go pick up medicine.
Beyond iOS 7, this symptom checker could have unlimited potential in the medical industry. If Siri were able to respond to each answer uniquely, and even further the conversation with the user by asking for clarification, doctors and nurses could save thousands of hours of asking patients the same list of prying medical history questions. There are not enough doctors to do the work that needs to be done, but Siri could potentially change that, hopefully in iOS 7.
9. Shopaholic Siri: Users can use Siri to search the Web for all their shopping needs, but it would be nice if Siri could keep track of the things you want to buy in the future – similar to the way iOS users use the Reminders app. automatically find the lowest available price for whatever you're looking for. In iOS 7, Siri could track your current location and give you a notification if certain stores with the items you want are nearby. If you’re in a shopping mall and several stores have the item you want, Siri in iOS 7 could automatically find the lowest available price for whatever you’re looking for and direct you there.