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Five ways Apple could improve the iPhone Siri voice assistant

Five ways Apple could improve the iPhone Siri voice assistant

Top feature requests for the next iPhone iteration

Article comments

Siri and I just met a few days ago. I think we're getting along pretty well so far (although she seems to get a bit testy and sarcastic when I ask her to "open the pod bay doors"). As great as Siri seems, though, Apple is calling this a beta and I can see why.

Siri is certainly more conversational and interactive than other voice command and response systems I have used, but there is still room for improvement. Here are five ways I would change Siri just off the top of my head.


1. Alternative voices

I have nothing against Siri's voice per se, but it would be cool to be able to use alternate voices and give my iPhone 4S a more unique "personality" than every other iPhone 4S in the world. When I moved from Michigan to Texas I had a TomTom GPS unit with multiple voices.

It made the trip much more entertaining to be able to choose whether to get my navigating instructions from an Australian dude or a French female, including slang and colloquialisms of the culture in question.

I don't necessarily think Apple needs to have voices like Darth Vader, or Ozzy Osbourne (how would you even understand what it's saying?) like TomTom does, but just having some alternate voice options would be nice. It would be cool to have other famous AI voices though, like HAL and GlaDOS.

2. Multilingual

Siri has some multi-linguistic skills, but not enough. The United States version of iOS 5 running on my iPhone 4S lets me choose between English (Australia), English (United Kingdom), English (United States), French and German. I'm not sure what the stats are for how many German-speaking or French-speaking citizens we have here in the United States, but I can guarantee you that it's lower than other populations such as Spanish-speaking.

I assume including languages takes up space and Apple can't include them all, but there are millions of people in the United States who speak languages other than French, German or three variations of English, and it would be very helpful for those people to be able to at least choose and download their native tongue from Apple and install it on their iOS device to make Siri more useful.

3. iPad 2 support

Tell me again why my iPad 2 didn't get Siri? As I understand it, the iPhone 4 didn't get Siri because it lacks the dual core processing horsepower of the iPhone 4S. Fair enough, but that argument doesn't hold water against my dual core processing iPad 2.

I'd like to be able to ask questions, set reminders, check the weather, etc. using Siri on my iPad 2. In fact, I am pretty sure I would use Siri more on the iPad 2 than I do on the iPhone 4S. Hopefully iPad 2 support will be coming in an update soon.

4. Deeper integration

I am still learning what Siri is capable of, but she is not shy about letting me know what she is not capable of. So far I have learned that Siri can't open apps, and it can't take pictures. Siri will let me dictate a text message, but not a Twitter post or a Facebook status update.

This isn't all Apple's responsibility, though. Apple just needs to have the APIs that allow third party developers to tap into and integrate with Siri. For example, Remember the Milk has already figured out how to link in to the power of Siri so when I tell Siri to set a reminder it saves it to Remember the Milk.

5. Default security

Apple has included an option with Siri that lets you access the power and capabilities of the personal assistant without unlocking the phone. A blog post from Sophos describes an issue with the default functionality of Siri while the iPhone 4S is locked. The problem is that if I can pick up the phone and send a text message, or access my schedule to get my reminders, so can anyone else who picks up my phone.

The bigger problem is that Apple leaves this on by default. I can understand making the choice available, but this should be turned off by default. The very point of having establishing a passcode lock is to prevent unauthorised access to my iPhone and the information it contains. Allowing Siri to circumvent the passcode and share that information violates the concept.

You can turn this off in Settings, but it is oddly not part of the Siri settings. Tap General, then Passcode Lock. Under the Passcode Lock settings, you can turn off the ability to access Siri's functionality from a locked iPhone.

There you have it. Five things I wish Apple would add, change, update or improve for Siri 2.0. Actually, since this is still a beta, I guess the next major iteration would technically be Siri 1.0. Siri is great, but it could be better.

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  • Javier Every StarTrek fan knows the potential and future of Siri1 Alternative voices is overkill All we need is Majel Barrett2 Multilingual You are not thinking big enough How about a universal translator Once Siri knows all the worlds languages that is the next logical step and the pundits wondered why Siri is so big httpappadvicecomappnn2013 The iPad is the StarTrek data pad The iPhone is the StarTrek communicator The functionality need not overlap The iPhone 65 will be a ear piece like Uhurus the next generation will be a broach and the ultimate will be an implant httpwwwimdbcomtitlett00In laymans terms even you can understand Apple hopes to sell everybody both an iPhone and an iPad Putting Siri on both devices would just confuse her More likely you could talk to Siri on your iPhone Nano and - via iCloud - appropriate results might appear on your iPad And vice versaSiri interfaces with Wolfram Alpha today Tomorrow it could be Mathematica - or Autocad etc Think different4 Be afraid Be very afraidhttpwwwimdbcomtitlett00 or httpwwwimdbcomtitlett185 After speech recognition comes voice recognition I imagine that is not to far away
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