Siri will work offline and come to third-party devices this year

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Apple’s AI-driven voice-controlled digital assistant Siri
Siri is finally expanding its reach.
Photo: Apple

Siri will soon be able to handle many of your questions and requests offline. When Apple’s next-generation software updates roll out this fall, on-device speech recognition will negate the need for a data connection.

Apple is also opening Siri up to third parties, paving the way for its virtual assistant to be integrated into all manner of smart devices in the future.

Apple likes to use on-device processing wherever possible because of the privacy benefits it brings. If no data is leaving your device to be processed elsewhere, it’s harder for others to get their hands on it.

It’s no surprise, then, that on-device processing is coming to Siri. It will offer a number of benefits, including allowing the assistant to be used without an internet connection for many things, and faster responses.

Siri improvements for 2021

Right now, if you attempt to use Siri without an internet connection, it won’t be anything. It can’t even schedule a reminder or set an alarm without first sending your request to the cloud for processing.

But with on-device speech recognition in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey, many features will be available offline. Those that don’t need to fetch data from third-party sources should all work without internet.

So, creating a new note, controlling music playback, adjusting settings, and even making calls should be possible when you’re offline. However, finding answers to questions or ordering pizza, for instance, will not.

The change “addresses the biggest privacy concern we hear from voice assistants, which is unwanted audio recording,” Apple said during its WWDC keynote. It will also make many Siri responses a lot faster.

Siri expands its reach

The most surprising Siri announcement during today’s WWDC keynote is that the virtual assistant is being opening up to third parties. Accessory makers will, for the first time, be able to integrate Siri themselves.

Apple has opening up other platforms to third parties in the past, most recently AirPlay and Apple TV. But we weren’t expecting the same for Siri, despite competitors like Amazon Alexa being open to others.

It’s not yet clear which companies we can expect to offer Siri in their devices, but during a WWDC demo, Apple showed an Ecobee thermostat with Siri built-in. Others will likely follow later this year.

iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey are scheduled to roll out this fall and will be free on compatible devices. Developers can get their hands on the first beta releases today.