iOS 9’s new always-on “Hey Siri” feature promises to be a game changer for iPhone 6s-owning users of Apple’s AI assistant. For the first time ever, these owners won’t have to plug in their handsets in order to use Siri’s new voice activation tech.
So how exactly will this untethered “Hey Siri” improve your life? Let us count the ways…
I’ve been a massive fan of Siri as a concept since it was first mooted by Apple back in the late 1980s, years before it made its debut.
Even I would acknowledge that it’s sometimes easy to forget about, though — requiring users to hold down the Home button on their iPhone rather than interact with it whenever or wherever a thought pops into your head.
While the core technology of Siri hasn’t changed too much with iOS 9, the ability to use it whenever you want, with nothing more than a simple voice command, should make it much more intuitive for applications like the following:
Listening to Entertainment
On an hour-to-hour basis, I probably use my iPhone for listening to media more than making calls, surfing the Internet, playing games, or anything else. I listen to books on Audible, lots of music, and a metric ton of podcasts — usually either on headphones, or streamed through a Bluetooth radio player.
The possibility of being able to walk into a room, say “Hey Siri, play me Jay Z” or “Hey Siri, let’s finish the Nerdist podcast” is exactly the kind of feature that will make the new, improved Siri indispensable.
It works pretty well, too. Asking for a Kanye West album immediately resulted in College Dropout (still his best album playing), for instance. It could do with a slightly better Apple TV-style Universal Search feature, though — particularly when it comes to asking for media from different sources. At least we know that’s something Apple’s actively investigating.
The ability to have an always-on AI assistant capable of throwing out pieces of trivia is a game-changer.
Everyone’s tested Siri on questions like the distance between New York and San Francisco, or the year The Spy Who Loved Me came out, but having the ability to do this hands-free makes the feature surprisingly more useful.
The fact that it can fetch the results for your home team’s last game is also hella useful.
I use Siri voice directions all the time, so the ability to be able to ask my iPhone for spontaneous navigation without having to plan it ahead of time, or pull over the car, is definitely useful.
Hopefully Apple will continue to work on this area, though, as my tests so far have shown it to be a time-consuming process getting Siri to understand what I’m looking for. Asking Siri for instructions to a postcode (or a ZIP code to American readers) beginning “BA2” was regularly misinterpreted as “Be A Two.” That’s not exactly helpful if you’re in a car trying to make a quick decision about whether to turn left or right at a T-junction.
Maybe it’s the constantly-listening Siri’s revenge for me singing in the car. Hard to completely blame it in that case!
This one’s not for everyone, since I know some people who hate dictating messages, but it’s something I find much easier than writing them out — particularly if it’s a longer text message or email sent from my iPhone.
Giving people the ability to do this at home is good. Making it easier when you’re stuck in traffic while sitting in the car is great.
Who knows? The fact that you can just start dictating a message the moment you think of someone, without having to reach for your iPhone first, could have a massive impact on productivity.
Controlling Your Smart Home
I’ll be honest: I haven’t fully embraced the Jetsons-style concept of a smart home yet, but it seems like every device is going to get smarter and more connected in the next few years — particularly thanks to HomeKit.
The idea of using Siri as your AI housekeeper — capable of giving you hands-free updates on whether your garage door is locked, adjusting the lights in your kitchen, or boiling your kettle as you laze on the sofa at the end of the day — is probably the closest we’ll get to a robot butler any time soon.
And anything that takes us closer to a robot butler has to be a good thing, right?