Five Things Apple Needs to Do to Improve Siri
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.
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 tweet 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 unauthorized 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.