Apple launched Siri, the virtual assistant feature in 2011, and was initially only available on the iPhone 4S. However, Apple has added Siri to the iPad 3 with the release of iOS 6, and is included on the iPhone 5, iPod touch 5, iPad 4 and iPad mini that were launched last year.
In iOS 6, Apple introduced a number of improvements to Siri such as the ability to respond to your sports, restaurants and movie related queries, give you turn-by-turn directions, open apps and update your status on Facebook and Twitter.
In iOS 7, Siri has received another overhaul. Here’s how Apple describes the new features and improvements coming to Siri in iOS 7:
Siri in iOS 7 gets a new look, a new sound, and new capabilities. It features a redesigned interface that fades into view — on top of whatever’s on your screen. A clearer, more natural-sounding female or male voice makes Siri even easier to understand. It’s faster at answering questions and it checks more sources, such as Bing, Wikipedia, and Twitter. And Siri takes on extra tasks, like returning calls, playing voicemail, controlling iTunes Radio, and more.
So here’s what new in Siri in iOS 7 based on information we’ve received so far:
- The first thing you will notice when you tap and hold the Home button to launch Siri is the all new user interface. In iOS 7, Siri’s UI takes over the entire screen rather than sliding up from the bottom of the screen and just occupying just a portion of the screen. It displays “What can I help you with?” when you activate it, and displays a waveform along the bottom, to give you a sense of feeling that it is listening to you. The background of the user interface is translucent like the Notification Center. The information icon has been replaced with a question mark, which gives you information about some of the things you can ask Siri.
- One of the biggest changes in Siri in iOS 7, has been Apple’s decision to ditch Google in favor of Bing for web search results. The web search results powered by Bing are now displayed within Siri’s UI, instead of launching Safari. As you scroll down, Siri also offers suggestions under the “Did you mean” section, to ensure it understood your query correctly.
- However, don’t worry, you can still use Google for the web search as there is a workaround for it. Simply say “Search Google for” and your search term, it will launch Safari and display the search results on Google, just the way it works in iOS 6.x currently.
- It also gives you an option to search Twitter for your query below the “Did you mean” section. Tapping on Twitter displays the Tweets that match your search query within Siri’s UI.
- You can also search Twitter for tweets on certain topics, or a specific user. You can ask Siri questions like “What is Twitter user saying” and it will display 10+ tweets by that Twitter user.
- Siri in iOS 7 is also integrated with Wikipedia, so queries such as “Tell me about Niagara Falls”, will display information from Wikipedia within Siri’s UI. The consolation of integrating Wikipedia and web search results powered by Bing in Siri’s UI is that, it should make it a lot more easier to use Siri when the device is locked. Currently, since Siri needs to launch Safari to display the search results, you need to unlock the device, which is quite a pain.
- You will be able to enable or disable system toggles such as Airplane mode, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Do Not Disturb etc. All you need to say is “Turn on Wi-Fi,” “Turn off Bluetooth” etc. You can also adjust the screen brightness using Siri. You can use commands such as “Turn up the brightness,” or “Turn down the brightness”. It doesn’t understand commands such as “Turn brightness to 50%” etc.
- Siri gets new voices in iOS 7 for some languages. For example a new male voice for English (United States) and a new female voice for French (France) etc.
- The voice is also a lot clearer, more natural sounding. The demo video shows Siri on iOS 6 and iOS 7, both with a female voice, but there’s a very noticeable difference between them.
While we’re a little disappointed that Apple switched to Bing for web search, the integrated web results in Siri’s UI offers a much better user experience.
Overall, Siri’s user interface is sleeker and a lot more user friendly, and the ability to enable or disable system toggles using Siri should make many of you very happy. These improvements will be available in iOS 7 when it is released later this fall.
Let us know what you think of the improvements coming to Siri in the comments below.
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